The original Old Master painting “Cattle Resting in a Landscape with Riverside Castle and Rainbow Beyond” was painted by a follower of the Dutch artist Aelbert Jacobsz Cuyp (1620-1691) probably in the 18th century, The Netherlands.
Once in my belongings after I had bought it back in 2012, I took a picture of the painting and contacted a company in Xiamen, China specializing in making reproductions of the worlds greatest art works and ordered a reproduction of it. With the resembling of a factory the production is divided amongst several different workers, all of them with different skills to produce the best result as possible.
When I received the reproduction I took a picture of it and repeated the procedure stated above. The workers are reproducing one of their own works and the motif starts shifting in color and details from the original painting. The second reproduction and so forth is becoming a work of its own and not just a reproduction of an Old Master painting.
I was fascinated by the idea of an original painting being turned into a reproduction that questioned the authorship of the original painting. The notion of the original painting is focusing on the artist’s tactile brushstrokes, movement, and the personal signature as different quality marks. The reproduction on the other side is made through quick and effective brushstrokes and the labor might be divided among several painters to produce the painting as fast as possible.
But what is it really that set aside those opposites besides history and provenance? In our contemporary art we have seen a deskilling of the craftsmen in art production. More effort is put on the idea behind the process, and the execution of the work is secondary to the meaning of the work. But in history painting was seen as a highly craft that honors the artists mind, experiences and handprint into the artwork. To me there is something almost in common with paintings made by contemporary artists and the works of a copy painter in China. In my point of view both are problematizing the valuation of art and art practice, although through different strategies and approaches.