Are Reproductions Legitimate Art?

14 07 2010

Can I Pray with a Printed Copy? If we are going to have a new epiphany of beauty then someone has to pay for it. It would be nice to think that there will be growing market for original works, but at the moment very few artists receive prices for their work that correspond to an hourly rate of even a plumber or a kitchen fitter. Why is this? I believe that beauty creates its own market. The price I receive corresponds to the perception of its value. So if I want to stimulate demand for my art, I should strive to be a better artist and make it more beautiful. If people like it enough they will be prepared to pay more for it. If they don’t want to buy it then it probably isn’t good enough. Marketing is important too but I am pretty sure that if a new Velazquez popped up, word would get around pretty quickly and people would be hammering at his door.

I have thought about other ways to try to sell my work in today’s marketplace. It had occurred to me that perhaps a way to make it pay would be through high quality reproductions. I could aim for a lower priced product and a higher volume of sales. With the quality of photographic reproductive techniques nowadays, it could be a way of making good art affordable to many.

Assuming that reproductions will sell, however, it does raise another issue. Is the sacramental nature of a reproduction of sacred art less than an original? Instinctively one feels so. But reading the theology of St Theodore the Studite, it would seem not. For Theodore, the great theologian whose work closed the iconoclastic period of AD853 says that what gives an icon its sacramental power is the captured likeness of the individual portrayed. If the likeness goes, then does the icon. It is reduced to wood, gold, paint and has no value beyond the price of the materials from which it is composed. This seems to imply that provided the reproduction is good and the characteristics of the saint in question are passed on from original to reproduction then, other things being equal , then it is legitimate to pray with reproduced, even mass reproduced, images.

So if you have a moment, pray with this wonderful painting:

This is a photographic reproduction of a hand painted copy of The Hospitality of Abraham by Andre Rublev, the handpainted copy is at the Russian Icon Museum in Clinton, Massachussetts. The original, which dates from the 15th century is still in Russia.

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2 responses

16 07 2010
Douglas Bonneville

“I believe that beauty creates its own market. The price I receive corresponds to the perception of its value.”

I love this statement. I’d love to read a follow up article on how a Catholic artist might market themselves. Not in a tabloid way, but in a legitimate way that corresponds to the dignity of their craft. Beautiful art requires beautiful marketing; or shall we say beautiful proclamation?

I’m thankful for the cheap reproduction of devotional art we have in our house. I’d rather have it than not, but as an artist I’m always aware of the cheapness. I think it bothers me more than probably 99.9% of other people who are not artists. That said, the culture of cheap but also tacky Catholic art doesn’t do anyone any favors. There is a cheap sentimentality that is easy to sell to people in culture that for better or worse doesn’t seem to know better.

24 07 2010
Mosaic Art Techniques: COCCIO PESTO

[…] Are Reproductions Legitimate Art? « The Way of Beauty […]

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