Master Copies

You may have heard of master copies: copies of famous art pieces that students try to replicate. What are they, and what benefit does it have to us as artists?

Master copies can apply to several art forms, but they are primarily seen in visual art. In visual art, master copies are pieces of replicas of art that other artists make. This may seem like fraud and unoriginality, but there is a reason for doing this. 

Master copies may be the hardest topic to paint because you have a reference for what the piece is supposed to look like. This way, you can strengthen your sketching techniques to fit the proper proportions and scale on the canvas and notice the subtleties of what the original artist is employing, whether it be a darker shade in the background or the line of a figure’s eyes. Master copies are essential to those who want to pursue life as artists because it gives insight into how famous classical painters painted such masterpieces and how you can improve your own art to make it more realistic and vividly real. 

Originally painted by Bouguereau during his early training years.

Color mixing is another key point of making master copies. Classical painters painted with a minimal palette, mixing colors on their own for their desired result. Today, we have many pre-mixed paints. Although this is a benefit for some artists, it can also hinder their ability to understand color as a whole. Using bare-bone pigments of red, yellow, blue, white, and black, you can essentially mix any color you want and learn how certain colors interact with each other. This may seem like a hassle at first sight, but artists need to know what color can do to change a piece’s tone to make it more somber or more cheerful.

Master copies are not used for selling counterfeit works; they are used as a study, a search for the subtleties of the established painter’s hand, and how they employ their expertise in art. 

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