This exhibition explores the art of copying across four centuries. Artists copy their own and other artists’ work for a variety of reasons. Traditionally, copying was an integral part of an artist’s education. The work of printmakers was important in the dissemination of artistic ideas and imagery in an era before public museums and easy travel. Prints and photographs were made to record memorable compositions and to capitalize on the popularity of original works by marketing other versions of them. A copy could reproduce a large painting on a smaller scale or convey the monumentality of a piece of sculpture. Though these works are not, for the most part, original compositions, they often display considerable ingenuity and creativity. The printmakers and photographers who made copies frequently developed innovative techniques to capture the brushwork, palette, or scale of the originals, reinterpreting them for and making them available to a wider audience.
Attributed to Félix Bracquemond (French, 1833–1914), after William–Adolphe Bouguereau (French, 1825–1905), Nymphs and Satyr, c. 1873. Etching on paper. © Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 1999.6