Artists and their silent assistants

academy malen leonardo da vinci 01 - Artists and their silent assistants

That´s how many great artists used to paint

For connoisseurs of the art scene, it is a perfectly normal fact, but for many, who don´t work in the field, it often sounds surprising: The works of many great artists – old as well as contemporary – often are not fruits of their labor. On the contrary: In the past, as well as nowadays, artists employ assistants, and sometimes their help goes far beyond mere assistance.

Art workshops as a workplace for assistants

Many great masters of the last centuries had their own workshops, where they trained assistants, who, at the same time, worked for them. At that time, artists lived mainly from commissioned work. In order to handle the workload, assistants were simply necessary. One of the most important German renaissance artists was Lucas Cranach the Elder. In addition to his son, he employed more than a dozen employees in his painting workshop in Wittenberg. Over 5000 works are attributed to him. However, probably a large part was probably made by his assistants. Cranach worked as court painter in Wittenberg and coined the unmistakable “Cranach painting style”. That is why, it didn´t actually matter so much, whether the works were made by Cranach himself or not. It mattered only if this special style was used.

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From Leonardo Da Vinci to Andy Warhol

Even in some works of Leonardo Da Vinci, according to current knowledge, not every brushstroke was done by the artist himself. Da Vinci employed a number of assistants for his works. Sometimes it even went so far that the artist only painted the main characters at the end and put his signature under the work – the students did the rest.

Nowadays is not different. Many elaborate art installations would not be possible without the work of diligent assistants. One of the most famous art factories of modern times is Andy Warhol’s “The Factory”. This was the name of his art studios in New York, which flourished in the 60s and in which numerous assistants worked for him. Some of them, like Gerard Malanga, gained some notoriety themselves.

Many great contemporary artists such as Olafur Eliasson and Ai Weiwei work together for their projects with many different artists such as architects, filmmakers or designers. Often, they have a permanent cast of assistants who only work for them. Without these diligent and silent helpers, their great art projects would hardly be possible. However, most of the times, the star artists are the only ones who take the glory.

What do you think about that? Do you think that is fair and legitimate?

Did you like our post “Artists and their silent assistants”? Take a look at our post “6 tips for oil painting”.

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