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what emerging artists can learn from old masters

Updated on May 31, 2014

"Support living artists, the dead ones don't need it," or do they?

What thoughts come to your head when you read the statement: "Support living artists, the dead ones don't need it"? "It's funny," I said to myself the day I read it on facebook. However, I was not laughing when I saw the amount of artists who seriously shared and liked this post because they stood by it. How can an artist stand up to this sort of statements? The fact is, there is no artifact, in my humble opinion, that exists today, that expresses and represents our modern society like this quote does. It screams frustration, anger, IGNORANCE, and most importantly, ungratefulness.

In a way, I must say that it is easy to be absorbed by statements like the one above, because it is easy to forget the great accomplishments and advances we've made because of old masters, and people whose work impact the world we live in today. So here I write the reasons why supporting only living artists is a barbaric idea. I also mention a couple of works I believe have impacted the way we think about art, and a reason why we, as a society, should invest in both, emerging artists, and old masters.

Why is this statement wrong?

Giving up on history

Art and history come hand in hand. Mankind has literally drawn since he discovered his ability to recreate his surroundings and living conditions. He (and she) had the need to document his (and her) life using whichever tools were around them Everything we know about us can be found in art, and the way we made art. What kind of animals did we hunt 30,000 years ago? What sense of fashion did we have in the 1800's? How did King Henry VII look like? We know what we know because of the so-called-dead artists.

There is no better time, then the time we live in now. It costs us little to access life of the past. We no longer need to be rich nor dynasty to enter a past full of drama, crisis, culture, and rich history. . Without these strong ties and influences, I can say that life would be boring and dull. We wouldn't even have a basis for inspiration by which could communicate our own present and our own reality. We wouldn't be where we are today.

Let's not forget to mention that past artists did not only leave us nice paintings and artifacts, they also redefined the skills and mediums by which to make great art. Some, like oil paints, are examples of mediums we still use today. Some skills and mediums have also lead us to other innovative areas, like printmaking, photography, and digital technology.

These and many other reasons I have not mentioned for lack of time, should help us understand why it is so important to invest in past art. "Support the living artists, the dead ones don't need it" is just such a wrong statement to share, like, or support.


Examples of artworks that shape our world today

In my humble opinion:

Art, which our ancestors used a simple tool for communication, has come to influence every aspect of our daily life. It doesn't just affects how we make art today but it also dictates the way we dress, advertise, decorate, make buildings, make name it!

There are many art movements that have helped shape the art we see today. Idealism, realism, romanticism, impressionism, surrealism, symbolism are just a few of these movements. Postmodernism is a result of all these movements combined.

There are also many works of art that have initiated, shaped and altered the way we see and feel about art. I will only mention the ones that in my opinion were the "ignition" and/or the inspiration to the movements mentioned above. These are:

1. "The great wave." Created by Japanese artist, Hokusai (1830), depicts an enormous wave crashing down on 3 fishing boats. This artwork is significant in the history of art because it 's probably one of the first artworks that's been created to provoke emotion. It is also important because it was a source of inspiration for two great European artists: Van Gogh and Monet.

2. "The young ladies of Avignon," by Picasso, is an important non conventional art work that marks the abstract movement and questions what art is about. Art is not one's ability to trace and copy a subject, but one's ability to provoke emotions through images.

3. "Campbell's soup cans," by Andy Warhol, which depicts realistic soup-cans on canvas. This artwork is important because it pushes the boundaries of traditional thinking. It questions what art is. Is anything art?

There are many, many painters and artworks of great importance that have contributed immensely to our culture, society, and art. I'm aware I've omitted almost all of them in this article, but you must admit that without supporting these artists and their work (either through donations, entrance fees to museums, etc) we wouldn't be able to see, experience, nor be part of a world of culture, civilization, and history.

Van Gogh and Vermeer
Van Gogh and Vermeer

"Support living AND dead artists"

Invest in our past to understand our present and create a future.

Sure, I could see Van Gogh and Johannes Vermeer, wearing T-shirts with the statement: "support living artists, the dead ones don't need it," but the fact of the matter is that they did die poor but not unaccomplished. They had their struggles but they never gave up their hopes, and most importantly, they never gave up creating.

That said though, would I have bought a painting of Van Gogh if I had lived in his time? Most probably not. That's not because I wouldn't have appreciated his work, but because back in those days, art was still reserved for the elite and the rich, something that I would have not been...?

The world of art has changed so much since then. Everyone has access to master pieces to which ordinary people (from back when) never got to set eyes on. Yet the myths on owning art are just as strong as in the 1800-1900's, however: Art is reserved for the elite, and the average Joe can never buy it. How can we expect art to advance when we can't believe we are good enough to own art? It is not wonder why emerging artists hate their predecessors, the "dead ones."

Early artworks are just as important as the art that surround us today. Let's invest in our past to understand our present, AND invest in our present to advance as a highly cultural society.

Books about art history

DVD's, and books, that will remind you of how important and VITAL art is in our lives...from our beginnings to where we are today.

Simon Schama's Power of Art
Simon Schama's Power of Art

Documentary about old masters.

How Art Made the World
How Art Made the World

BBC documetary about how important art is in our world.


Please give us your opinions about this subject. I don't least not through computer screens ;)

What are your thoughts?

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