One of the most valuable exercises one may undergo as a painter is to produce a master copy. In this process one selects a painting by a “master” painter and attempts as faithful a reproduction as possible. For my introductory painting class in college I chose The Dead Toreador by Edouard Manet, a predecessor of the European Impressionists, to attempt to reproduce. The original painting is 5 feet long by 2.5 feet tall. For my assignment I created a 1/2 scale reproduction, using oil on canvas.
It was difficult finding a good picture of the original to use in my copy as almost every photo reproduction is slightly different in terms of its coloration, quality and size. One finds these differences prevalent when searching images on the internet as well, no consistency (as illustrated in the color difference between the image I found today and my painting. The photo of the original is quite a bit warmer in its coloration).
After settling on an image I set about the task of copying the painting. Part of the assignment was to first make a careful drawing of the painting, then as a color study I used magazine clippings of various colored areas to make a collage copy (which I no longer have). Only then did I set out to paint the picture. I learned a lot about color mixing, brush selection and paint application by going through the process of copying Manet’s work. He became one of my favorite artists at that point, especially for the quality of his brushstrokes, which conveyed a loose spontaneity and freshness of application. A few years later as a senior in college I was able to go on an art dept. trip to Washington D.C. and see the original painting, which was pretty exciting. Below is the original followed by my copy.
Original image credits (The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH.)
The two wall sections from right to left (this is a digital photo of my original printed photo) show some of my work from the day of a critique. You can see my reproduction as well as the drawing, collage, the print I was working from, some still lifes I painted and a couple of figure paintings (which I painted over and reused the canvas).