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Copying, A Painting Tradition

From "The Art Museum as Education".

"When the Louvre was first opened to the public in 1793, it set aside five of every ten days exclusively for artists to study and copy its collection….When the first American museums were formed nearly a century later, they adopted the Louvre's policy; giving artists and students permission to paint or model from the works in their galleries became a fundamental means of museum education.

As the tenets of modernism finally began to be incoperated into professional art education in the 1930s, copying as a basic learning tool lost ground"(572).


From "The Art Museum as Education".

"In the early 1970s, artists and museums in a few locations began to revive copying. Until 1931 the Metropolital Museum of Art, like many others, had a special room where artists could work from objects of their choosing without being disturbed by the general public" (572).

From "A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings IV: Self-Portraits".
"Sir Joshua Reynolds notes that many students in the Gallery of Dusseldorf made copies of paintings in the collection. They even had at their disposal a large room especially for copying paintings, which explains the large number of (18th-century) copies after copy" (446).

From the "Dictionary of Women Artists, Volume 1".

  1. "Copying was increasingly discouraged except by: students for whom copying was important to the process of learning through emulation" (59).

  2. "Copying was an important component of the work performed in the collaborative system of the studio, bottega or workshop, the most prevalent structure for the production of paintings in Europe before the 20th century" (56).

From "American Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Volume 1"
'"In copying', she later wrote, 'the beginner learns to appreciate the method of each artist,--his manner of approach, the mixing and gradations of color, and gains a sense of relative values" (298).


From "Henri Fantin-Latour" The J. Paul Getty Museum

"Fantin-Latour developed an enthusiasm for Italian painters, especially Titian and Paolo Veronese, and regularly copied their work at the Louvre." Link

From "French Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Volume 3".
"There he studied under the academic painter Paul Delaroche, but his style was far more deeply affected by his work in the Louvre, where he spent much time copying paintings by the old masters"(139).


From "The Painter in Oil" by Daniel Burleigh Parkhurst

"The use of copying is not to find out how to paint, but to see how many wys there are of painting....Copying does not help you to perceive, it can only help to show you how something can be expressed after it has been perceived...Handling, composition, management of color, technique of the brush generally, may be studied by copying (112). "

From "Rubens to Picasso: Four Centuries of Master Drawings" by Victor Chan
"Degas' admiration for Ingres was unmistakable: he owned thirty-seven drawings and twenty paintings by Ingres. As early as 1854, he began copying Ingres' works in the Louvre" (43). 



From "Russian Genre Painting in the Nineteenth Century" by Rosalind P. Gray, Rosalind Polly Blakesley

"The painting section of the Russian Academy took from its French model the long-standing hierarchy of genres, which places history painting in the first place, followed by portraiture, landscape and genre painting (which was termed 'domestic exercises') in descending order of importance. It also adopted Colbert's highly regimented training programme. Russian pupils began their artistic training by copying engravings of famous paintings. They then progress to drawing plaster casts of antique statues, before copying paintings themselves. Once they had shown themselves to be proficient in drawing statues and copying works of art, they were permitted to join the life-drawing class" (2).

Art-students and copyists in the Louvre gallery, Paris / drawn by Winslow Homer. 1868. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. Link.

John Singer Sargent's "Dwarf with a Mastiff" after Velázquez. Hispanic Society of America. Picture by Realist Art Resource.

Sir Edwin Landseer's Copy after Rubens's "Wolf and Fox Hunt"

ca. 1824–26. Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Collection, Wolfe Fund, 1990. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Link.

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