Monday, March 2, 2009

Derivative Art

There is a great new exhibit at The Philadelphia Museum of Art called "Cezanne and Beyond". It is not just an exibit about works by Cezanne, but it's about how he has influenced other artists. I went with my friend June, last Friday. When I bought the tickets, I didn't realize that it would only be the 2nd day of the exhibit.

There was good news and there was bad news. Good news for us, because it wasn't that crowded, so it was easy to enjoy the art. I love the headsets they give you. I enjoy listening to curator commentary while viewing. It compensates for my lack of formal art education.
Anyway, back to quilting. I have heard quilters turn up their noses looking at some art quilts, calling them derivative. What does that mean? Does it mean copied? In the style of? The same point of view? This exhibit is completely about how artists were not just influenced by Cezanne, but copied him. The first comparison that you are hit with are paintings of a male bather- one by Cezanne and the other by Hartley Marsden. Then continuing on, there are still lifes by Picasso and Matisse and Braques that were copies of paintings by Cezanne, And then the landscapes - paintings of Mont St Victoire. There was even a groupings of works that I believe were by Matisse. They showed that he actually traced a Cezanne and then drew 5 variations of it changing it slightly each time. Copyright???
My take on it. Derivative is when you use someone's style to create your own work of art. It becomes yours when you create the same topic in your style. Or does it? It brings to mind the current controversy over the Obama poster by Shepard Fairey. A lot to think about.


  1. Copying implies something very different to me than a rendering of the same subject in the same pose but not intending the final product to be identical to the original. In my opinion, the initial cubism paintings done by Braque and Picasso were done as rather a joke between the two of them--switching off paintings as they drank and ate and consorted (now there's an old word)--I doubt that either of them knew whose painting was whose or if they did, they signed them randomly just to be snarky.

    On another note, the Philadelphia Art Museum is wonderful and I wish I lived close enough to visit.

  2. One of my favorite paintings! We should realize that great artists influence others. Just think of Shakespeare in literature. Monet was influenced by Japanese art. Picasso was influenced by African art.


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