The relationship between established "master" artists and their students is one of the most important and enduring in the art world. In the past, apprenticeships were the primary way that young artists learned their craft. They would work under the guidance of a more experienced artist, learning their techniques, materials, and approach to art-making.
Today, while apprenticeships are not as common as they once were, they remain an important part of the art world. Many artists learn from their mentors and peers, and their work is often influenced by the artists they admire.
Importance of Apprenticeships in the History of Art
Apprenticeships have played an important role in the history of art. In the Renaissance, for example, younger artists would work under a master artist, first replicating the master’s work, and then painting small aspects of the master’s original paintings.
Leonardo Davinci's Mona Lisa (Left) & The Prado Mona Lisa (Right) by Davinci's Students in his Workhouse
Continuing the method in Contemporary art, artist Jeff Koons is clearly an influence to Kehinde Wiley’s work, as she apprenticed with the established artist. Wiley’s work is often more personal and introspective than Koons’s, but her use of large-scale formats and bold colors is directly related to Koons's work.
Gallery500 artists Kathleen Lusby and Paulo Jimenez both continue this tradition, teaching developing artists in their craft. Lusby will paint with her students, teaching technique and skill through example. Jimenez helps students grow their skills with his own art as the model. Other artists, such as Beau Wild, lead and participate in workshops to share and grow her talents with many at once.
Through the centuries, many artists have studied the masters. An artist was considered a great if they could replicate the great works. This shared training influenced their development as artists, and their work often shares similar stylistic elements.
How Can an Artist be Influenced?
There are many different ways in which an artist can be influenced. Here are a few examples:
- Medium and materials - i.e. Paint on Canvas, Bronze Sculpture,
- Techniques - i.e. shading techniques, slow shutter speeds to capture movement
- Subject matter - i.e. landscapes, portraits, abstract shapes
- Concepts - i.e. time, dreams, infinity, political perspectives
- Approach to Art-Making - i.e. work ethic, process, philosophy and attitude towards their work
Students Influencing Their Masters
While master artists have a profound influence on their student’s artwork, the relationship is symbiotic. Students can also influence the work of their art mentors. For example, Gallery500 Emerging Artist Natasha Fenga, shared how she uses an iPad and an Apple Pencil in Procreate to our very own master painter, Kathleen Lusby. Lusby was excited to see the capabilities of the technology and find an easier workflow for planning her paintings.
American artist Willem de Kooning was influenced by his student, Lee Krasner, who encouraged de Kooning to experiment with more expressive and gestural forms. Famed artist Pablo Picasso was challenged by his student, photographer Dora Maar to think about his work in new ways. Her influence can be seen in Picasso's Cubist and Surrealist paintings.
Photograph of Dora Maar and Pablo Picasso on the Beach by Eileen Agar, 1937 (Left) | Dora Mara Seated by Pablo Picasso (Right)
The relationship between master artists and their students is a complex and multifaceted one. Master artists can influence their students in many different ways, and students can also influence their masters. By understanding the ways in which master artists influence their students, we can gain a deeper appreciation of the creative process and the evolution of art over time.
Chu Totoro (Hayao Miyazaki) by Andrea Tamme as Woman With A Parasol by Claude Monet
Written by Natasha Fenga