David Henty
Copy Art

The art of copying

There’s a fine and nebulous line between ‘an original’ painting, and ‘a copy’. The recent record breaking $450M + sale of Da Vinci’s Salvatore Mundi, that many aficionados and experts are still saying is a fake, (potentially painted by a pupil Giovanni Boltraffio), begs the question “what’s this painting worth if the original is not actually an original?”

Surely then a master copy, one undetectable from the other, sky rockets in tangible investment value. To what extent is a work of art independent of the identify and physicality of its creator? Is a painting sufficient in and of itself to survive its separation from the hand of the artist thought to have painted it? Would the crowds gather still for indistinguishable 3D-printed copies?

Copying is a very different discipline to producing the original artwork, copying is notoriously difficult. Mastering an artist’s unique style, however, is a challenge I embrace. It is only once I have developed an affinity with the artist, that I’ve connected with him or her that I will attempt to emulate their style. This means that preparation for a painting begins even before my brush touches the canvas!

David Henty with a Great Copy Art Work from Vincent Van Gogh!

Prior to starting work on a piece, I will delve into the artist’s life and thoughts in order to get beneath the skin of that person. I derive a huge satisfaction from deconstructing a work and analysing how to lay down each stroke, as well as mixing the perfect palette.

To begin to recreate a painting involves rigorous preparation through an immersive research process, studying the original painting, developing an understanding of how the artist worked, mastering the techniques and idiosyncrasies of the artist, and sourcing materials true to the period, learning to see the world through their eyes.

I immerse myself in books and videos, look into the contemporary history, investigate paints, canvas and frames, and absorb as much information as available about the artists and their lives. I also make numerous exploratory drawings and paintings to uncover each painter’s nuances, quirks and any particular characteristics. To feel confident about making a copy of a great painting is one of reverse engineering, of deconstruction; I will not embark on a work until I have applied intense interrogation of every aspect of the work and the artist.

It is of the upmost importance for copy artists in the art world to produce works of the greatest artists that have ever lived. Once this art form has gone it will be lost forever.

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