Is Imitation Flatery or Forgery?

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The answer to this question is not cut and dried. Looking back through history, it was common for artists to copy not only the work of others, but their own work as well. Think about it. How else would someone obtain a copy of a painting he liked other than asking he artist himself to paint a duplicate. Many of the masters also allowed others to copy their work.
Why would someone want to outright copy a painting. One of the most legitimate and acceptable reasons would be for the purpose of education. After all, in music a music student plays the works of the masters over and over again. They study the compositions and then they create their own based on what they have learned. One must first copy the masters before one can truly branch out and develop his own style. It is through copying the work of others that technique is learned. Having said this, copying is not about inspiration. Although one can be inspired by another’s work, true inspiration is a more divine concept. Copying is more about technique.
However, there have been instances throughout history in which someone has attempted to forge a painting under a master’s name. This is obviously unacceptable, but the trend of creating works of art similar to that of another painter is only natural. Consider Cubism. Would it have made any sense if Picasso had burst onto the art scene and blown it away with his new style of art only to have no one try to create it on their own? Of course not. Imitation is natural for human beings and yes, it is a form of flattery. The subconscious in particular loves to be mirrored and so does the conscious self.
It comes down to this. Copying someone’s work and presenting it as yours or not acknowledging the true author of the work is forgery. Copying the work in order to learn the techniques or imitating the techniques and creating the same style of art for the purpose of education, self-exploration, and creation are imitation and flattery in their highest form. Of course, there are always those who do not copy, but who create new ways of doing things.
The true geniuses are the ones who are imitated.

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