A Brief look into Learning to Draw

Learning to draw in britain

The Old Masters were a collection of great European painters from before the 1800’s, who were fully trained and worked unaided. Examples of these include, Rembrandt van Rijn, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. Old masters would have their own pupils who they would guide and teach the skills that they had mastered. Their works are not only considered to be almost priceless, but some would say so exquisite that were unique. Others, on the other hand, clearly had other ideas.

Many popular artists from across history copy from the old masters paintings, and would then take complete credit for it, seeing as copyright was not around. Obviously the Old Masters couldn’t teach all of the pupils that wanted to study with them, so would publish portfolios for people to copy from. It’s believed that if you copy from the old masters enough, you will begin to learn their secrets. Some claim that they have learnt more from copying and studying these magnificent works of art than they have from being taught painting. I find this quite odd, I myself have never been told to reproduce any work by any of the old masters, and my first response is that isn’t it just copying? I understand the idea that traditional artists would copy their art to learn how to overcome problems as the old masters did or their painting secrets. But if they are doing it to convince themselves that they are an artist equal to one such as Millet, I certainly be won over. These old masters had talent and no matter how many times you paint their painting, you wont gain their gift.

I don’t believe my generation have this kind of attitude towards the old masters, perhaps this is because the majority don’t appreciate them enough, or simply weren’t taught anything about them.


I find it hard to grasp the fact that in time periods such as the 18th century there was very little drawing from life. That people would rather spend money to purchase an Old Masters’ portfolio than attempt to draw the world around them for free. Perhaps it was implied that if you couldn’t paint like the Old Masters you couldn’t paint at all. I know that certainly isn’t the case these days, people are interested in new exciting things, rather than things they have seen before. Possibly this has something to do with the fact that it is much simpler to copy almost any kind of image these days which methods such as tracing paper, projection and photocopying.

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