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Further details AGOCopies Series, 2007-2008
Oil and Enamel Ink on Primed Canvas
30" X 40"
(Selected Images from series - Otto Dix, Augustus John)


When the Art Gallery of Ontario was enduring its Frank Gehrey update I was going to miss being able to see some of my favourite work for awhile.  I had been studying at OCAD at the time, and was able to use my student card to get in for free.  Sometimes, over worked and tired I'd go in the gallery for inspiration.  I was going almost everyday for a few minutes here and there.
After being there so often, what was I going to do when it closed up.

I really liked the routine of seeing all these notable woks day after day.  You really get to know them very well.  I'd been going there and seeing a lot of them my whole life.  But by this time I was starting to know them even better.  I was going to miss them.

The Art Gallery of Ontario, for as long as I can remember, supplied in a few rooms cards for, I suppose, school children to draw on with what they had seen or experienced on their big adventure to the Art Gallery.  To draw their copy of a masterpiece, which becomes their masterpiece in turn.  Its a wonderful idea. Well, I always loved this idea and those cards very much.  Filled them out all the time. And for me, didn't stop with school trips or childhood.  They're still great fun today.  Sometimes even, if you leave your drawing there, and you get lucky, they will even display them in a special gallery in one of the rooms and everything.  I have had my share up there, I'm proud to say.
(Still wondering if I should put that on my CV).

The AGO's encouraging people to make their own versions of their collection isn't new idea in the art world.  If you have ever been to the Louvre in Paris, especially early in the morning you will have likely seen a "copyist" or two.  These Artist make their living making copies, some more exact than others, of the famous Louvre Paintings.  They set up an easel right beside the original and commence copying.  The Louvre supplies the easel and a chair, the Artist supplies the canvas, paint, brushes and talent.  The Louvre only has one rule, the canvas must be a different size than the original.  People have been setting up their easel and working away in the Grand Gallery since the practice was started in early 1800's.  There was a time, when artists were making a lucrative trade selling their copies in galleries in the surrounding streets.  There were so many painters working in the gallery that by 1880's American tourists complained on their Grand Tour that it was hard to see past them to look at the art. There is now a maximum number of artists allowed to work at one time but anyone can do it.  Fill out an application, show examples of your work and wait your turn.  It helps to be French, I'm sure, but they let anyone and everyone partake.  Its kind of crazy! But Amazing.  I have sent my application in, and I'm raring to go again someday soon.

Well here in Toronto, you can't do what you can in Paris, not what so ever.  In the AGO you're really not allowed to use anything but a pen, pencil and a corner in one of the rooms there is a table with pencil crayons for you to fill out "what have you seen at the Gallery today" cards).  Well like I said I really enjoy the idea of these cards, and I'm fascinated with being a Copyist as well, and so that was that.

I began making copies of these pictures in the AGO that we're going to be taken out of sight for a year and half while the place was being reconstructed.

So I used an allowed pen,  and made many, many drawings of the paintings I was going to be referring to in my copy, on the supplied AGO cards and went home to try to become a copyist.  As much as the AGO would allow to be anyways.  Remembering that even Picasso once said "if I see something worth stealing, I steal it" helped me to counteract the slight feelings of quilt associated with copying, despite it being a respectable profession in Paris, and throughout Europe for well over 200 years and still to third day.

The idea of the copyist is a dying art.  Especially since the advent of mass production printing presses.  Seemingly the galleries now prefer, it appears, their copies to be on posters, placemats, t-shirts, books, and other gift shop junk sold by them in the gallery shop, rather than being the copy you can buy, be a piece art in of its self, sold by the hard working artists themselves.

Well I made my copies, as best I could, so there.  It's not my fault completely, the AGO did supply the cards and the originals and it was too much to resist.

The "AGO Copies" series consists of 10 oil paintings representing notable works found within the collection, copied by me, as if they were, a canvas "what did you see in the Gallery today" card.  Mainly for my own enjoyment, I wanted to see if I would have been alright hacking it in 1800s Paris, and mostly I just wanted to be able to look at them when the real ones were down and out.  I know these works well, studied them my whole life, and thus have included a bit of context information for them from what I have learned about them over the years, because its kinda nice to know what you're looking at sometimes.  And because it makes them that much more interesting.


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Portrait of Dr. Stadelmann

A Quick History of the Original Painting.

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969)
"Portrait of Dr. Heinrich Stadelmann, 1922"
Oil on canvas, 90.8 x 61.0 cm (35" x 24")

Dr. Heinrich Stadelmann was a novelist, patron of avant-garde artists, neurologist, clinincal psychologist, and practitioner of hypnotic therapy, and a specialist in nervous systems. In Dix's portrait of his Dr. friend, he appears both mad and under the spell of his own hypnotic trance. His eyes bulge and glitter. His fists are clenched and his posture is tense. What demons lurk beneath that morbid exterior? It's as though Dix turned tables on the doctor, releasing him with his own psychological examination. The Stadelmann portrait was painted during Dix's 1920-22 sojourn in Dresden, a time when he saw himself as an artistic rebel. A friend recalled Dix saying at this time that, "I just can't seem to make it, my paintings are unsaleable! Someday I'll either be famous or infamous!"

Dix was introduced to and then made the large oil painting of Portrait of Dr. Heinrich Stadelmann during a stint documenting conditions in the Pathology Department of a German hospital while he prepared a series of etchings on the horrors of World War I, among them the famous — and famously lost — “The Trench” (1920-23). The morbidly inclined Dix, spent hours in the pathological department of a local hospital, pouring over and drawing the mutilated remains of corpses, human organs and entrails, with a penchant for grotesquerie reminiscent of Hieronymus Bosch. For his part, Dix described art as a form of, "exorcism.” One wonders whether demons would be conjured up rather than cast out by the subject of this painting.

Hitler, and the Nazis hated Dix's work. Placing it in there now infamous Art Show entitled "Degenerate Art" , mounted by the Nazis in Munich in 1937. The show consisted of modernist artworks chaotically hung and accompanied by text labels deriding the art. Designed to inflame public opinion against modernism, the exhibition subsequently traveled to several other cities in Germany and Austria.

After the exhibit, the paintings were sorted out for sale and sold in Switzerland at auction; some pieces were acquired by museums, others by private collectors. Nazi officials took many for their private use: for example, Hermann Göring took fourteen valuable pieces, including a Van Gogh and a Cézanne. In March, 1939, the Berlin Fire Brigade burned approximately 4000 works which they thought had little value. A large amount of 'degenerate art' by Picasso, Dalí, Ernst, Klee, Léger and Miró was destroyed in a bonfire on the night of July 27, 1942 in the gardens of the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume in Paris. Whereas it was forbidden to export "degenerate art" to Germany, it was still possible to buy and sell artworks of "degenerate artists" in occupied France. The Nazis considered indeed that they should not be concerned by Frenchmen's mental health. As a consequence many works made by these artists were sold at the main French auction houses during the occupation. It is believed that this is how the "Portrait of Dr. Heinrich Stadelmann" survived the Second World War. It was donated to the AGO in 1969, through an anonymous gift. Wonder who it was, and how'd they end up with this masterpiece. Enticing and intriguing!

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Andrew Hutchison's Copy of Dix original
"A Very Hypnotizing Hypnotherapist" 2008

Original Otto Dix "Portrait of Dr. Heinrich Stadelmann" 1922
© Otto Dix & Art Gallery of Ontario

"Quick Sketch" example made at Art Gallery of Ontario
(standing in front of original painting) Version 2 of 5
What I Saw in the Gallery Today
Otto Dix's "Portrait of Dr. Heinrich Stadelmann"
Ink on supplied AGO Card
8" x 8"

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Augustus John's
The Marchesa Casati

A Quick History of the Original Painting.

Augustus Edwin John (British, 1878-1961)
"The Marchesa Casti, 1919"
Oil on canvas, 96.5 x 68.6 cm (38" x 27")

The Marchesa Louisa Casati was in her time, Europe's most notorious celebrity and its most eccentric. For the first 3 and half decades of the twentieth century she astounded the continent. She travelled to Venice, Rome, Capri, and Paris collecting palaces and a menagerie of exotic animals. Nude servants gilded in gold leaf attended her. Bizarre mannequins sat as quests at her lavish dining table. She wore live snakes as jewellery, and was especially infamous for her evening strolls, naked beneath her furs, parading pet cheetahs on diamond studded leashes through the streets of Paris.

Artist Augustus John had been attached to the Canadian Press in 1919, as a war artist during the end of World War I. He had been ordered to make a recording of the Canadian participation in the Paris Pearce Conference that year. While in Paris, he was painting portraits of Robert Borden, and the Canadian Prime Minister, along with numerous other dignitaries. Since he was in Paris, he used this opportunity to join the Paris Avant-garde artistic and cultural community, in its heyday. John met the wealthy Casati at a party, hosted by a mutual friend. The two quickly became lovers. She posed for her "handsome" painter lover numerous times that year as they maintained this affair. She was a well known patron of numerous artists in Paris in those years as well. She was not shy, when stating, to have had a love affair with most of them.

Luisa, Marquise Casati Stampa di Soncino the eccentric Italian heiress, muse, and patroness of the arts in early 20th Century Europe. As the concept of dandy was expanded to include women, the Marchesa Casati fitted the utmost female example by saying: "I want to be a living work of art".

However, by the 30's, Casati had amassed a huge personal debt of over $25 million. An astonishing amount at the time. Unable to satisfy her creditors, her personal possessions were auctioned off, including her massive art collection. Rumour has it that among the bidders was Coco Chanel. Casati fled to London, where she lived in comparative poverty. She was rumoured to be seen rummaging in bins searching for feathers to decorate her hair. She died at her last residence, 32 Beaufort Gardens in Knightsbridge, on 1 June 1957, aged 76. Following a requiem mass at Brompton Oratory, the Marchesa was interred in Brompton Cemetery. The quote "Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety," from Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, was inscribed on her tombstone. She was buried wearing not only her black and leopard skin finery but also a pair of false eyelashes. She shares her coffin with one of her beloved stuffed pekinese dogs. Her tombstone is a small grave marker in the shape of an urn draped in cloth with a swag of flowers to the front. The inscription strangely misspells her name as 'Louisa' rather than 'Luisa'. It is a hard grave to find and, despite her fame, wealth and notoriety, is modest compared to the thousands of grand monuments surrounding it.

By the time John met Casati she had already bedded a number of famous artists, and had been a subject for many others. Rather than present her in one of the mythological guises other artists had, John chose to try and capture her flamboyant personality. It depicts the Marchesa with a wig of fiery red hair, highlighted by a muted background, that might depict a stormy view of the Italian Alps near her home. The painting was originally full length, but John cut it to only show the upper part of her body. The Beat poet and novelist Jack Kerouac fell in love with the portrait as a child and refered to it in his poem, San Francisco Blues (1954), the 74th Chorus reads -

Marchesa Casati Is a living doll Pinned on my Frisco Skid row wall
Her eyes are vast Her skin is shiny Blue veins And wild red hair Shoulders sweet & tiny
Love her
Love her Sings the sea
Bluely Moaning
In the Augustus John de John

The Marchesa Casati is a portrait of Luisa Casati by Augustus John, painted in oil on canvas in 1919. It is currently housed in the collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) in Toronto. John made 3 paintings of her over their year long affair, and the one in the AGO is the best of the lot.

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Andrew Hutchison's Copy from John original
"A Scandalous Patron of the Arts" 2008

Original Augustus John "Marchesa Casati" 1919
© Augustus John & Art Gallery of Ontario

"Quick Sketch" example made at Art Gallery of Ontario
(standing in front of original painting) Version 2 of 5
What I Saw in the Gallery Today
Augustus John's "The Marchesa Casti"
Ink on supplied AGO Card
8" x 8"

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All images (unless otherwise stated) Copyright
© Andrew R. Hutchison 2000 - 2013



Famous Artist Mary Cassatt visited the Louvre in Paris, the most famous art museum in the world,  to study and copy the masters. Renoir, Henri Matisse, Degas and countless other artists were copyists at the Louvre. Examining the brushwork, composition, colour and lost and found edges of paintings by master painters is part of the copyist tradition.

In the Louvre, you are allowed to bring your own small sketchbook and draw to your hearts content. If you wish to paint one the masterpieces, you must apply for a copyist permit. The Louvre will supply the easel, and your seat. You supply the canvas, oil paint, determination, talent and concentration.  Just think of the concentration required. If you've ever painted in front of a small group of people, imagine painting in front of several thousand museum visitors.
There are a few stipulations about your painting, your canvas cannot be the same size as the original work of art and you are not allowed to copy the original artist's signature.

By the time the Louvre has been open for a couple minutes, already crowds will be sauntering through its vast galleries. Up on the second floor, in a long, red walled room devoted to 19th-century French paintings, on a day I visited a group was gathering around a young woman wearing a black velvet tunic and a floor-length silk skirt. Her glossy auburn hair braided and coiled around her head, she sits on a stool before an easel, deftly applying paint to a canvas. Some of the visitors hang back, stare dubiously, then wander off. Others crowd in for a better look, glancing from the famous 19th-century painting on the wall, The Women of Algiers by Eugène Delacroix, to the copy on the easel. “Boy, she’s really good,” someone whispers. “Aw, I bet she’s doing it by the numbers,” comes the response.

Carol Smithy, a 25-year-old artist from the states, is not only producing that curious paradox—an original, fully creative copy—she is also carrying on a venerable tradition. Ever since the museum opened its treasures to public view in November 1793 (one of the indisputable benefits of the French Revolution), it has allowed, even encouraged, artists to hone their skills by copying the masterpieces in its collections. Thousands have done so, including great classical painters from Turner to Ingres, Impressionists from Manet to Degas, and modernists like Chagall and Giacometti. “You have to copy and recopy the masters,” Degas insisted, “and it’s only after having proved oneself as a good copyist that you can reasonably try to do a still life of a radish.”

The Louvre’s attraction is profound. When 23 year-old Marc Chagall arrived in Paris in 1910 from Russia, he went there directly from the train station, suitcase in hand. “Going to the Louvre is like reading the Bible or Shakespeare,” he later said. Paul Cézanne regularly trekked there to copy Michelangelo, Rubens and classical Greek and Roman statues. “The Louvre is the book where we learn to read,” he declared.

Though most of them are women, today’s copyists are an otherwise varied lot. Of the 150 artists who executed 269 copies during the 2011-2012 painting season, nearly three out of four were art students or in artistic professions. But there was also a psychoanalyst, a surgeon, a midwife and 13 retirees. Three out of four, also, were French.

Madame Maïten de Ferrier, the enthusiastic head of the office that runs the copyist program, believes a stint at the Louvre is a rite of passage.

“These artists like to follow in the footsteps of all the great painters who have copied here,” she explains. “And, of course, they also come to improve their technique, to find solutions to their artistic problems.” Some, however—like eccentric Surrealist Salvador Dalí, who created a group of provocative renderings of Jean-François Millet’s pious The Angelus—prefer to use masterworks as a point of departure. Picasso, who copied at the Louvre in the 1950s to recharge his creative batteries, produced a series of interpretations of Delacroix’s The Women of Algiers (the same work being copied by Carol Smithy) after noticing a marked resemblance between one of the women in the painting and his then companion, Jacqueline Roque.

Difficulty is what most Louvre copyists are seeking. “It’s a challenge to try to reach the level of the old masters, and to meet it you have to extend yourself,” says Mary Chavance, a French artist who does mainly Impressionist-style landscapes in her Left Bank studio. But here, on the opposite side of the Seine, in the Louvre’s bustling Grande Galerie (devoted to French, Italian and Spanish classical paintings), she is grappling with an aristocrat in gleaming armour by Caravaggio. The work is typical of the Baroque artist’s Tenebrism—the depiction of dramatically illuminated forms emerging from shadow. Her version looks perfect, but she’s not satisfied. “If you don’t copy, you won’t advance,” she says. “But you can’t do it passively. You have to involve yourself deeply in creating something that’s more than just a reproduction of a painting.”

That seems to have been the idea when the museum opened its doors two centuries ago. “Each visitor should be able to put his easel in front of any painting or statue to draw, paint or model as he likes,” proclaimed an early official. But the Louvre was soon so flooded with artists that the museum had to start issuing authorizations and limiting hours for copyists. (Today, copying is permitted from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., September through June, except Tuesdays, Sundays and holidays.) In the early days, art students, never known for their decorum, often had to be reminded to refrain from games, singing and horsing around in what was supposed to be, according to Louvre authorities, a “sanctuary of silence and meditation.”

Not everyone went to the Louvre for purely aesthetic reasons. In the mid-19th century, mothers often chaperoned their copyist daughters, concerned that representations of scantily clad bodies might be corrupting or that male copyists had more on their minds than offers of artistic instruction. To such prospective swains, the 19th-century novelist Champfleury offered an effective approach: “Copy a painting next to hers, then ask to borrow some cadmium or cobalt. Then correct the odious mess of colours she calls a painting (they’re always glad to get advice) and talk about the Old Masters until the Louvre closes and you have to continue the conversation in the street. Improvise the rest.”

By the middle of the 19th century, hundreds of artists were busily copying masterpieces, mainly to satisfy orders from clients. Many visitors, wending through a veritable forest of easels, ordered copies on the spot. Thus the Louvre offered artists the possibility of income (though by the 1890s, photography had reduced demand), as well as a dry and heated place to work.

Still, many of today’s Louvre copyists sell their works. A few art galleries near the museum market them, and some artists, such as Amal Dagher, who has been copying for 30 years and is considered the unofficial dean of Louvre copyists, sell directly to visitors. Born in Lebanon, the affable 63-year-old Dagher studied for four years at Beirut’s Academy of Fine Arts, and later in India, Thailand and Japan, before settling in Paris. He is working on a copy of a portrait of Mademoiselle Caroline Rivière by French neoclassicist Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, who, along with Delacroix, is among the most copied of the Louvre’s masters because of his rigorous composition and subtle colouring. (One of the world’s most famous paintings, Leonardo’s Mona Lisa, is one of the least copied—partly because the crowds that flock to the painting make it hard for an artist to set up an easel and partly because, according to Ferrier, its fame intimidates.)

“Caroline Rivière died at 14, about a year after she posed for Ingres,” says Dagher. “I believe he was trying to present an idealized vision of her. She is almost an Italian Madonna, and the challenge here is to achieve the form that he gave her, making her seem to float above the background.” Despite his many years of copying, Dagher admits to feeling a sort of stage fright every time he faces a blank canvas. “That’s a good sign,” he says. “If you’re too satisfied with yourself, you can’t improve.”

Dagher also values the Louvre for the access it gives him to the public. “Not many people passing through actually buy my copies,” he says, “but often they will ask me to do something else for them.” Some want him to make copies of portraits of their ancestors so they can give them to other family members. One American visitor asked him to paint a reproduction of a Versailles ceiling fresco at the visitor’s home in Connecticut. “The gold-leaf moulding alone cost nearly $60,000,” Dagher recalls. “That was a lot more than I asked for doing the painting.”

But not everyone wants to sell their copies. Gilles Malézieux is interested only in creating his own collection. Malézieux, 45, knows the Louvre better than most. He works there as a security officer. When not keeping an eye out for pickpockets, he returns to the museum with brushes and paint. “I take days off from my vacation time to do this,” he says. “I’d rather copy than go to the beach.” Malézieux began copying six years ago because he loved paintings but couldn’t afford to buy them. Self-taught, he does four or five copies a year. He’s currently working on a rendering of The Ferry by 17th-century Dutch landscape painter Salomon van Ruysdael. “I chose this one because it’s a seascape—a glaze without much detail,” he says. “That lets me dream a little, and that’s enough vacation for me.”

Not far away in a room given over to 17th-century Dutch painters, Tsutomu Daitoku is hard at work on a copy of Jan Vermeer’s The Lacemaker, with its assiduous young lady bending to her delicate handiwork. Tall, thin and earnest looking, the 25-year-old Japanese amateur taught himself to paint by reading books and studying works in museums. “I came to Paris just so I could copy here at the Louvre,” he says. “I plan to become a professional artist when I return to Japan, moving around the country and doing all kinds of paintings. This one by Vermeer is very difficult, especially the”—he consults a Japanese-English pocket dictionary—“‘colouring.’”

The Louvre is more liberal than, say as an example, Washington’s National Gallery of Art, which has a long list of rules and requires reference letters, original samples of paintings and an interview from applicants. But the Louvre’s Ferrier thinks that “we should leave the artists as free as possible.” One painter who has benefited from this attitude is American Will H.G. Thompson, a slender man of 30 with thick dark hair. A professional artist who won an award for a painting at Paris’s Salon des Beaux-Arts, Thompson was born in Switzerland and grew up in Europe. He studied art at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia and now makes his home in Paris. In a dimly lit room devoted to Spanish classical paintings, he is copying Francisco de Goya’s Young Woman with a Fan, a portrait of a poised young lady with a distant, dreamy gaze.

“I got a good foundation at the Pennsylvania Academy, but you never stop learning,” Thompson says. “When I copy a masterpiece, I get a sort of mental trip out of it, applying the paint differently, using light and dark the way the artist did. It’s like taking a lesson from an old master.”

Like most Louvre copyists, Thompson often chats with some of the thousands of visitors who enter the museum each day. “There’s a real exchange between the copyists and the public that we consider very positive,” says Ferrier. “Copyists working amid the visitors enhance the way the public sees paintings and incites them to look more closely with a more analytical approach. They start noticing how the artist actually did the work, which is a great thing".

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American Artist Winslow Homer's 1868 Wood engraving
"Art-Students and Copyists in the Louvre Gallery, Paris"
© Collection of Brooklyn Museum of Art

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Contemporary Copyist
working in Louvre Gallery, Paris France
in Summer 2010.

All images (unless otherwise stated) Copyright
© Andrew R. Hutchison 2000 - 2014