Saturday, August 29, 2009

"A good artist borrows, a great artist steals." - Picasso

Yep, I am going here again! It's Saturday afternoon and I just got my new copy of The Artist's Magazine. Eagerly, I open to the first page and I see a letter from Cynthia (CJ) Rider, president of an artists' league. The letter is titled "On Competitions: What's Ethical?"* Then she goes on to say
" .....copying the masters [is] not for creating original art."
I could really offer hundreds of examples, but I am only offering one for the sake of brevity. The first painting shown here is Titian's, Venus Of Urbino c. 1538. The second painting is Manet's Olympia c. 1863. I wonder if Ms. Rider would not allow Manet to enter Olympia into one of her juried competitions due to lack of originality?

It has been a long held tradition among artists to recreate over and over the artwork of those they admire. They all did this, Michelangelo, Raphael, Manet, Picasso, Monet I could go on and on! Without this recreation we wouldn't have Icons!

I do understand that we have to be careful to respect other artist's ability to make a living and to be fresh with our creativity. However, I am really surprised that in our world of lawsuits, fear and greed that creativity hasn't been stifled all together.

Ms. Rider furthered her argument by stating that "...if I change a few or many words in a Shakespearian sonnet, it will never make it mine." [sic] Okay I have only one thing to say to that --West Side Story, baby!

We are artists and we are creative but we do need inspiration. God doesn't always talk to us directly, usually he speaks to us through other people.

Alice Cooper mentioned the other night on his radio show that he was once asked why he didn't sue the Beastie Boys for using his music. He said (to paraphrase) " is for everyone man. If they could use it I was happy."

I really want to hear your opinions on this. Later on I will post a painting I have been working on which really relates to this issue.....

Looking forward to your comments.

*(The Artist's Magazine, July/August 2009 pp. 8 -10)


  1. Carrie,
    Excellent reasoning! I agree 100%!

  2. I totally agree with u. Everything we EVER do is inspired by someOne or someThing we experienced. It is not a crime to emulate that which we aspire to.

  3. The Wisest man in the world said there is nothing new under the sun. People have been copying God's creation and borrowing from it forever and he never sued anyone. He freely gives. Corporations just wait till the patent date is expired. We are all influenced by others for we all came into this world through another person. I like you feel I could go on and on.

  4. Bravo!!!
    I agree with you.
    People who claim to have done the "original" are just not telling the truth. We all get inspiration from someone, somewhere, sometime.
    What makes something "unique" is the person behind it. "There" interpretation of whatever art they are doing. Thank you!

  5. I agree with you completely, and could not have wrote it more wisely. I think a lot of the problem may be jealousy, too. When someone paints similar to another painter, and it's better, the other artist will lash out in any form they can to make it look like they first created a specific tilt of the head, pose, technique, etc. The poses you post above of two similar artists, are also very dissimilar, in that they speak diverse stories to the viewer. There’s a message in every painting, whether it’s love, hate, etc. The artist's, I'm sure, both had very different mindsets when they each painted those. The world is only so big, and goes round and round, ultimately repeating everything we see, feel, and touch over and over again, in a different form or new light or even the same light, and this, to me, is as it was meant to be. Anyone’s expression will always be recurring at some point in time, no matter what form it is.... Nice post, Carrie.

  6. Thanks so much for these great comments.