I was reading an art book on the British Master J.M.W. Turner and came across this quote by Edward Young from his Conjectures on Original Composition.
An Imitator shares his own crown, if he has one, with the chosen object of his imitation; an Original enjoys and undivided applause. An Original may be said to be of a vegetable nature; it rises spontaneously from the vital root of genius; it grows, it is not made. Imitations are often a sort of manufacture wrought up by those mechanics, art and labour, out of pre-existent materials not their own.
This quote interests me greatly in relation to art today and my work. It is what I try to say to my students when they bring me examples of art or photos that they wish to reproduce. I try to tell they can do better – to learn what they like from these talents and then make their own original work. I love many artists and they do influence me. I do try to express myself in my way.
As was said in the Turner book; there was a growing movement towards originality and less interest in imitation. Turner was heavily influenced by the Dutch and French painters and knew of Reynolds. Hard fought battles for copyright laws were being laid down in 1774, prior to Turner’s birth. His sketches and paintings based on the works of Nicolas Poussin, Claude Lorrain, and even Rembrandt van Rjn show clearly his involvement in subject and composition imitation. He shows he was studying their techniques and I think in open admiration of their styles.
I am not surprised that such a talent as Turner would be so influenced by the Masters before him. He in turn was imitated. We see this every day in our commercial world. Artists come up with exciting looks or ideas and they are quickly absorbed by all. They may not be the ones to benefit from their efforts and that can be very frustrating for the creative. Turner is influential and often spoken of as the step before Impressionism.
I am always reminded of my father’s take on creativity. You have to be educated and yet be unique. He was a research scientist [virologists and geneticist] and saw that the creative process is not all that different in our two worlds. I think it is that way with all creativity. From him I learned it could be possible to be original.
He said – to be creative you have to be current and learn to set aside the works of others when creating.
I am not a writer or a very learned artist. I do however enjoy a discussion on art.
- J.M.W.Turner:Alnwick Castle 1829 (chrisbellinger.wordpress.com)
- Call of nature: when art imitates life (guardian.co.uk)