Commercial art=Bad art debate

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Commercial art=Bad art debate

From Marie C. Riche

Published before 2005



NOTE: All the letters regarding this subject have been brought together into one article, and lavishly illustrated. Click HERE to read Illustration is to fine art as poetry is to prayer.



Commercial art = a possibility to improve its style by gaining public adhesion without losing its soul?

Three examples:

Bouguereau in 1891, whilst his two main early paintings The Angel of Death and the Dante and Virgil in Hell were hanging unsold in his studio, stated that if he had pursued in a similar style, he would not have got anywhere and that, under Durand-Ruel's pressure, he had to change his style in order to please his potential clients and specially American clients. As from 1865, he changed entirely and made his best paintings, those we are admiring now.

Cabanel's motto "let's get rich!", he became Napoleon III's official painter, accepted all commissioned portraits and decorative wall paintings from rich French clients and came to an agreement with Goupil to sell his works to America.

Paul Delaroche, had an agreement with Goupil for an extensive reproduction of all his paintings. Goupil made costly engravings but also cheap vignettes and the more funny is that these reproductions were not always made directly from Delaroche's paintings, but from intermediate drawings made by other draughtsmen, in order to simplify the reproduction. Delaroche was well aware of this and wanted to supervise. Apart from the fact that it brought to him some confortable copyrights, he also thought that this was the only way that his works would be known by the public, "I am constructing a monument to my own memory, whilst I am still alive". He thus attained a gigantic notoriety.

This was certainly a commercial attitude. Did these artists lost their soul? I believe, that by their wish to meet with the public tastes, they on the contrary improved their style and manner.

I am not a specialist in art, nor a painter, sorry if these remarks look out of subject, but I see no harm in artists earning good money.

Marie C. Riche MD.