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January 26, 2020 / Congau

Originals and Copies

An artistic idea can only be expressed in a work of art; the idea doesn’t precede the actual work. In other words, no matter what excellent plan comes into an artist’s head before he sets out to work, it’s only in the execution of the creative process that greatness and originality are shown. This means that whatever subject is chosen and whatever style is employed, those factors are independent of the creative moment and consequently they don’t even have to originate from the artist himself. It is perfectly fine to borrow a general concept from someone else, and that does not at all lessen the status of the artist as an original creator.

In fact, no artist has ever been the sole originator of his product. He always finds himself at the endpoint of a tradition leading up to the present time and place, and whether he is deeply indebted to his predecessors or relatively independent of them is of no consequence as to the artistic value of his work.

Suppose you suggested a motive and a painter followed your suggestion. Who would be the artist, you or the painter? The painter, of course, and only him. The idea that you seemingly gave him would not be an artistic idea but merely a source of inspiration since an artistic idea can only be expressed in an artistic language – in this case by means of paint.

But an inspiration can also be transmitted in the same artistic language, one painting can inspire another painting, for as long as the essential artistic idea is not copied, it will be a genuine piece of art.

A copy is the opposite of a work of art, but an inspiration is not a copy, not even as a matter of degree. Art is real when the work itself is original.

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