Stealing Art

September 5, 2012

Picasso is credited with saying, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” Picasso was a painter who could make someone else’s painting his own; he “picasso-fied” many classic paintings. I am always amazed at the connections you find throughout time in the art world. Soutine’s Side of Beef always sticks out in my mind as an image used for stock material. (For Julia Robert’s fans, you may remember this slide as being labeled “grotesque” in Mona Lisa Smile.)

Soutine, Side of Beef (1924-5)

Both Francis Bacon and Jenny Saville have referenced Soutine’s work in their own paintings:

Jenny Saville, Torso 2

Francis Bacon, Figure with Meat

Bacon is also referencing another artist in his work. Figure with Meat is one of several Pope portraits that Bacon painted, and it is referencing a portrait done by Diego Velazquez. (One of his most famous works is Las Meninas.)

Francis Bacon, Study of Velazquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X

Diego Velazquez, Pope Innocent X

Most recently, I have discovered the painter Caroline Westerhout, who draws off the style of Gustav Klimt, giving new meanings to some of his paintings.

Caroline Westerhout, Judith-After the Trial

Gustav Klimt, Judith I

The connections you can find are endless because artists are always “borrowing” or “stealing” from each other to make a new idea or to reform an old one. Through this theft, art becomes more than a history lesson, it becomes a time machine for artists. We turn the dial back to see the stories of others, then return safely home and make them our own.

Look. Listen. Respond.



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