2 February 2012
Last updated at 09:04
How do you tell a grand master from a forgery? That is the question posed by a new exhibition at The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in the US. The show, called Copycat, features original works of art alongside copies created by other artists. This image compares William Adolphe Bouguereau's 1873 oil painting Nymphs and Satyr with an etching attributed to Felix Bracquemond.
The exhibit explores the art of copying across four centuries. Artists very often copied work as part of their training or to improve their skills. Some of the works, such as Albrecht Durer's original Joachim’s Offering Rejected, from The Life of the Virgin (left) and Joachim’s Offering Rejected by Marcantonio Raimondi, are so similar it would take an expert to tell them apart.
Reproductive prints, like the one on the left, are copies specifically made to replicate drawings or paintings. They were collected, studied, and enjoyed widely in the 18th century - and proved popular with artists because they could be distributed easily and cheaply, thereby enhancing their reputation.
Replications of work might have been created by an artist as a tribute to a master, or with the intent of forging the work and passing it off as their own. The painting on the left, Etienne Aubry's Farewell to the Nurse, had only recently been finished when Robert Delaunay created his copy in 1779.
Often, works were copied by more than one artist, with each putting their own spin on the original. In the 16th century, Johann Ladenspelder (right) and Johan Wierix (centre) both paid tribute to Albrecht Durer by copying the master's Adam and Eve artwork (left). Each artist added their name to the tablet in the top left of the painting with Ladenspelder using his pseudonym Johannes Van Essen.
Irish engraver Willian Baillie became renowned for his copies of Rembrandt's work. He even published a folio containing 225 of his etchings in the style of the great master in 1892. His version of The Three Trees is seen on the right, with added lightning bolts, next to the original, which dates from 1643.
Rembrandt was a popular subject, with A Man Reading (original on the left) one of his most frequently-copied works. The exhibition, Copycat: Reproducing Works of Art opened at The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts on 29 January and runs until 1 April.