I hope and certainly assume, that the readers of The Artist’s Perspective are both artists or creative types, and art collectors or enthusiasts as well. With that hope, I would like to speak more directly to the collector/enthusiast this month on the topic of masters.
We’ve all heard the terminology “the old masters”, which rather loosely refers to those deceased painters and sculptors found in museums. Perhaps a closer look reveals those who created their masterful works of art a couple of hundred years ago. Time flies when your having creative fun.
But the word master is not one thrown around much anymore. You don’t hear people referred to as a master carpenter, a master watch maker, master wine maker, or pretty much master anything these days. Yes, we have a Masters Golf Tournament, MasterCard and people still get a master’s degree, but even that falls behind the lofty doctorate degree and you never hear anyone refer to those great painters as Old Doctors. Nope, it’s old masters.
So what made them so masterful? Better yet, are there masters among us today? Creating artwork 200 years ago was not easy. Let’s leave aside that just plain living 200 years ago was not easy. There were no grocery stores, communication was difficult, travel was hard, illness and infection was very serious business, much less making artist materials. That’s right, not just buying those materials, but making them from scratch for each painting. Making art could take a team and becoming a master could take years of training and hard work. These dedicated years bringing you to the point of becoming a master, whereby the team would work for you. So masters were skilled individuals, highly trained and very deserving of their title.
Along the way though, many apprentices or pupils, while making paint and doing his master’s deeds, were actually assisting in the painting or in making copies of work. Guilds and studios quite simply were in the business of making art. In a sense, I see many of the guilds much like glass studios today, where a small team works to create artwork. This doesn’t mean an artist never worked alone, but there is a practicality in the team effort and often one person has mastered his or her skills and the others helping, learn by doing.
With respect to art today, it is certainly true that someone with no skill can buy some materials, not have to make them, give it all a good first try and regardless of their results, offer it for sale on the premise of beauty is in the eye of the beholder. There is no license needed, no restriction, no law saying otherwise. You might think I would be opposed to this? Certainly some are, but as much as I feel artists need to pay their dues, I also do not ever want the opposition or control of an art police. Trust, the making of art could become very restricted, very fast.
That said, while I believe there is national saturation of amateur art for sale, there are many modern masters among us too and mostly what separates them from their old master counterparts, is history, death and the valued appreciation that comes with time. It is most certainly not just talent as there are easily artists today who are as masterful as those of our past.
There are quite literally artists among us who have dedicated their life to creativity and yes, mastering incredible skill. We are talking about thousands of hours, spread over decades of time, proficiently making beautiful works of art with their brain and own hands. Their work not only reflects an investment of time, but that which is original and inspires others on many levels.
So, when you look at a piece of art, do your best to not just see it, but to grasp the personal investment in time both in the execution of that one piece of art and also the years of artistic dedication towards mastering the craft of making art.
Live An Artful Life, Tom