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Appropriation and the Art of the Copy (May 2015): Copying as Homage before 1960

By Elizabeth Mix

Copying as Homage before 1960

Artists copy one another for a number of reasons.  Some artists wish to have an apprenticeship with an artist who is no longer alive—this reason is the closest to the traditional use of the copy for the purpose of academic training discussed previously in this essay.  Vincent van Gogh, who had little formal training, copied the work of Eugène Delacroix, Jean-François Millet, and Japanese prints by Ando Hiroshige and Keisai Eisen.  Pablo Picasso, who was trained in the academy, nevertheless had posthumous apprenticeships with Eugène Delacroix, Edouard Manet, and Diego Velasquez.  In The Copy Turns Original: Vincent van Gogh and a New Approach to Traditional Art Practice, Cornelia Homburg discusses copying in the academic curriculum and, in the wake of the Impressionist and Postimpressionist break from the academy, the role of the copy in these changed contexts.  She then explains van Gogh's copies of Delacroix, Rembrandt, and Millet, and the reasons he chose each of these artists to emulate through copies.  Also treated is the reception of van Gogh's copies; limited attention is given to other artists who copied, which Homburg uses to legitimize van Gogh's practice—Paul Cézanne, Odilon Redon, Paul Gauguin, the Nabis, and Picasso.  Orlindo Pereira's essay "The Role of Copying in van Gogh's Oeuvre and Illness" in Van Gogh 100, edited by Joseph Masheck, tracks the copies into the artist's specific periods and argues that the copies may have been a way to soothe his mental illness.  Picasso and the Spanish Tradition, edited by Jonathan Brown, is a book of essays treating Picasso's interactions with Spanish masters, including the influence of El Greco on his Blue Period, the Spanish baroque vanitas effect on his still life paintings, and his posthumous relationship with Velasquez, which included multiple reinterpretations of Las Meninas.  Gertje Utley's essay shows how the borrowings vacillated between Picasso's Spanish nationalism and his adopted France.

Works Cited