Before starting this essay, we should understand what a painting is. The word ‘painting’ is a noun as well as it is a verb. The act of making a painting (noun) is a verb (painting). In this essay, one is going to be concerned with the noun form of painting. So ‘painting’ is the outcome of the process of applying different colour on a surface in an artistic manner. What an honor to quote the legend himself. Michelangelo seems to be philosophical when he said this, “Good painting is nothing else but a copy of the perfections of God and a reminder of His painting. Finally, good painting is a music and a melody which intellect only can appreciate, and with great difficulty,” (Michelangelo). The theoretical meaning of painting can be understood by, “We should remember that a picture – before being a war horse, a nude woman, or telling some story – is essentially a flat surface covered with colours arranged in a particular pattern.” (Denis). We comprehend that Michelangelo loved to paint because he wanted to venerate God through his efforts.
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Coming to the question, “Does the reproduction of a piece of art (i.e. a painting) diminish the original work of art’s value?” the answer is in the negative. No, the reproduction of a piece of art (i.e. a painting) does not diminish the original work of its value. But there is a stipulation. Any work that is being reproduced should not be misappropriated in any manner. The message or outcome should be the same as in the original one. There are people who might not have seen the original masterpiece. So when they see a reproduction, they should be able to visualize correctly about the original painting. If the painter of the reproduced painting is a skilled one, he or she will see to it that the ‘value’ of the painting is not diminished. In other words, the reproduced painting should be impressionist. Reproduced paintings are somewhat not liked by individual art collectors because they don’t know how many reproduction copies have been made. They think that in this manner, the uniqueness of the painting is lost. Moreover, if he wants to resell the original painting, he will not be able to get a good bargain. The reproduction of a piece of art (i.e. a painting) does not diminish the original work of art’s value because a reproduction painting, nevertheless perfect, will definitely be at variance from the original one and the aesthetic or artistic significance of the original painting cannot be achieved by any reproduction one.
But exceptions are always there. Some people might think that there is actually no difference in an original painting and a reproduction one. According to them the reproduction paintings have their own aesthetic or artistic value. They are also masterpieces in some sense because it’s not easy to copy a marvel in a manner that the difference is not easily visible. Actually the original artist’s main contribution is the idea or theme of the painting. In making the painting, he had the liberty to apply some extra brush strokes here and there. But in a reproduction painting, the artist has to follow the original. He can’t apply extra brush strokes by his will. Else the effect will not be the same.
Art has mesmerized humans since times unmemorable. Initially the paintings were centered on Gods, Goddesses and gallant heroes. A sense of spirituality was there in the paintings and they seemed to be more inclined towards the biblical characters. It seems that the intention was to portray the spiritual world. The art and paintings of the medieval world covered an enormous range of human life and the surroundings. This art progressed more under the patronage of the Roman Empire and the Christian church. The churches during that era were very powerful. Even Martin Luther King was concerned when he wrote in his ‘Letter from Birmingham jail’, “I have heard many ministers say: ‘Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern.’ And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, on Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.” (Luther).
Although there have been reproductions of numerous art works (paintings), the most reproduced painting in the world so far, is Monalisa by Leonardo da Vinci. Some others one can find below:
- Swirls and stars: Starry Night by Van Gogh
- Pitchforks at the ready: American Gothic by Grant Wood
- The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo
- We’re off to see the wizard
- Salvador Dali: The Persistence of Memory
One must say that it is a very costly affair to buy original masterpieces. Original paintings like ‘Monalisa’ or ‘The Last Supper’, for that matter, might cost a fortune. “I don’t own any of my own paintings because a Picasso original costs several thousand dollars – it’s a luxury I can’t afford.” (Picasso). Art collectors and enthusiasts all over the world keep a lot of collection of reproduction paintings. They get a good bargain by selling them. People also don’t mind in paying because they can enjoy the beauty and elegance of any particular painting in their living room. It doesn’t matter if it’s a copy. Anyway, you don’t have to touch the painting to get the feeling of the marvelous appearance.
The word ‘value’ here should not be misinterpreted for the price. As John Berger clearly interprets the meaning of ‘value’ in his work ‘Ways of Seeing’, “What determines an image’s value is not its meaning or quality of painting, but its uniqueness.” (Berger). Berger cited the example of two almost identical paintings of the ‘Virgin of the Rocks’ by Leonardo da Vinci. One is at the National Gallery and other at the Louvre. Moving ahead, in this context ‘value’ means the importance, the originality, the grandeur, the standard, the quality, and the message that it shows and the high regard or esteem that the painting commands. The sense or concern for the ‘value’ is very important. Masterpiece paintings are our heritage. We should protect them. At the same time, it should be a privilege of all to view such masterpieces. But the tragedy is that neither can all enthusiasts visit the places or museums where these masterpieces are kept safe, nor can the painting masterpieces be taken throughout the world. So it is a better and intelligent option to have them reproduced. Another bright side of reproducing paintings is that by doing so, the original remains safe from all sorts of threats including theft.
There is a different class of reproduction artists. They are extremely talented and skilled in what they do. In fact this should be the quality in them since they are engaged in duplication or reproduction of great marvels of great artists.
There might be certain questions in the minds of people as regards to reproduction of paintings. How is it that certain paintings are available for reproduction but some are not? How do museums display paintings? Well, for such questions, the answer is that each one of us is vigilant enough so that our rights or interests are not compromised by others in any way. Similarly, artists are also afraid that their works might be copied. The copyright act comes to the rescue of such artists. In order to protect their work from being copied in an unauthorized manner, artists have now started taking copyrights for their works. They can initiate legal proceedings against anyone who is found to reproduce their work in any way or in any sort of media like print, television, films, internet, etc. in such cases the copyright infringement is applicable. People can avoid being sued if they know whether the art that they are copying is protected by copyright or not. There is a website that tells us what all products are under copyright (http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/195_copr.html). The penalties of copyright infringement are very severe. The person might have to go to jail as well. If any individual or a museum or any company wants to use any painting, an approval from the artist or the owner of that particular painting is required.
But all the legal procedures consume too much of time, energy and of course money. So artists should be careful not to give any chance to people who are on the lookout for an opportunity to make money by reproducing the paintings. Like for example, if at all an artist wants to advertise his painting online, he should not post a picture larger than 600 X 600 pixels. This will not be printable.
Undoubtedly, people are now inclined towards buying reproduced versions of original masterpieces. We all wish to have some good paintings on the walls of our homes. But not all of us have enough money to buy the original ones. Even the original paintings of small time artists cost too much because a lot of time is consumed in bringing out that painting. Due to this, painting reproduction is becoming widely accepted. Moreover, the reproduced versions bear such resemblance with the original that it cannot be easily differentiated.
Most of the famous paintings are either in museums or with private collectors. The reproduction of such paintings has become a sort of necessity because it enables others also to own a marvel (maybe a copy). Once it was a dream to own a masterpiece. But by the advent of painting reproduction, anyone can be a proud owner of such masterpieces. The main reason is the affordability. Normally, such reproductions are oil paintings. Artists use special varieties of oil to give the painting a worn out look.
Another benefit of reproducing the paintings is that the buyer is given the bragging rights also. People visiting your home will not be able to judge whether it is a reproduced version. The thought that you own a masterpiece will give you immense happiness and that too at very nominal cost. Such painting reproductions are very good for gifting purposes as well. You may buy one and gift to someone you love or to some friend. Even if the painting has been in your possession for quite some time, you may still gift it because art pieces never lose their charm. Another significant benefit of painting reproduction is that the buyer gets to feel the painting. He or she can smell the oil colors used in it. Some artists even go to the extent of mixing certain natural dyes (similar to those used by the original artist) in their colors. This gives an even better effect and is more towards the original. Moreover, you don’t have to search frantically for any particular masterpiece reproduction. Reproduction paintings are easier to get to than the original ones. The electronic media is so common nowadays that you can search online for any reproduction painting and order it then and there (online).
Nowadays, reproduction paintings can be found in great numbers in the possession of art collectors. Different art collectors acquire these paintings from different reproduction agencies. This surely diminishes the value and uniqueness of the original painting. There is also a possibility that the reproduction painting might be of a better quality than the original one. This would probably degrade the original work.
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To conclude, it would be right to say that reproduction paintings do not diminish the value of the original work. This statement can be supported by various factors. The original painting is preserved. There is no fear of theft. People are able to own classic paintings at very nominal costs. People can actually feel the texture and experience the grandeur of the original one. This is possible because of the pigments used in the colors. More and more people can appreciate the works of renowned painters, which would not have been possible in the absence of the reproduction paintings. People would not have even known that any particular painter or paintings ever existed.
- Berger J. “1 John Berger, Ways of Seeing”. Elsevier. n.d. 2011.
- Denis, M. “Maurice Denis”. HighBeam Research Inc. n.d. Web. 2011.
- Luther M. “Martin Luther King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail”. Bu. n.d. 2011.
- Michelangelo. “Michelangelo Art Quotes”. Robert Genn. n.d. Web. 2011.
- Picasso, P. “Paintings Quotes”. Thinkexist. n.d. 2011.Web.