Copying the Masters
Throughout history artists from many cultures have copied existing works of art in order to learn certain techniques. This idea of copying the masters was also relevant in ancient China. In 636 AD Emperor T’ai-tsung “ordered ten exact replicas made by four of his best court calligraphers.” Later in the early 13th century Emperor Li’tsung owned no less than 117 copies of the Lan-t’ing. These paintings were all intermingled and it was not important to know which one was the original and which was the copy. Today appropriation often has negative connotations, especially with the use of photography. This series shows the juxtaposition between the instant reproducibility of the camera and the ancient Chinese idea of owning multiple originals of the same work.
Facts on Chinese emperor’s and painting’s are from Wen Fong, “The Problem of Forgeries in Chinese Painting, Part One,” Artibus Asiae, Vol.25, No 2/3 (1962): 95-119+121-140.