Imitation leading to Creation


On View Boy with a Pipe (Garçon à la pipe), 1905. Oil on canvas, 100 × 81.3 cm. Detail. Source: wikipedia.

Though we know Picasso perhaps more for his modern work that his classical style, the truth is that he began as many fine artists do, copying the work of masters. This tradition of copying has had a prominent place in the art academy for centuries. Many artists, including Picasso, submit themselves to the study of the classical for good reason. The process of faithful copying teaches the artist about the making of art, and in doing so they learn what art-making means, for others and for themselves. Copying trains the eye and the hand; the student artist discovers both the techniques of the master and the topography of their own inspiration.

There is an exhibition in Paris this winter that shows many of Picasso’s master-inspired works. If you’re in town, bring your sketchbox, get your tickets early and spend the day at the Galeries nationales du Grand Palais. If you were to copy El Greco, Matisse and Rousseau, and move from imitation through to creation, what would your work look like? I’d like to know: write to me at

About the Exhibition: Picasso and the masters, at the Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Paris France. October 8 2008 – February 2 2009. 210 works form the worlds leading collections illustrate the inspiration thar Picasso drew from the great masters. Full details at the exhibition’s weblink here>

Read more

Sir Joshua Reynolds’ Discourses on Art (London, 1769-1790)

Robert Henri’s The Art Spirit (Philadelphia, 1923).

Past Posts