Artists One-Up Writers Again


An advertisement in an architect’s magazine offers “masterpiece recreations” for sale by an art gallery in Florida.


“The masters of today re-creating the masterpieces of yesterday for the collection of tomorrow,” the advertisement blurbs enthusiastically.


It promises “hand painted museum-quality re-creations,” and is illustrated by a reproduction of one of Claude Monet’s incessant paintings of water lilies.


As usual, we find here that artists can indulge in activities that would get writers laughed at, if not sued or arrested. If a writer advertised that he was re-creating masterpieces by Hemingway, Hawthorne, Shakespeare or Fannie Hurst, turning out handwritten copies of their actual manuscripts, and was selling them to collectors, the best reaction he would get would be ridicule.


Those of us who write for a living have long been aware that painters of pictures enjoy the upper end of a double standard. They get away with a lot.


If an artist wants to paint a picture of a landscape, he is allowed by custom to set up shop on a hillside overlooking the view he wants to put on canvas. He sits there with his easel and brushes and beret, and paints what he sees, and passersby think he is picturesque and oozing with aesthetics.


If a writer set up his typewriter or laptop computer on the hillside and started to describe the landscape in words, passersby would think he was a few participles short of a compound verb form. A writer is expected to sit in his dismal garret and describe the landscape from memory.


Another inequity: Suppose an artist decides to produce a painting of a naked woman. (It seems to be a frequent decision among artists.) The artist can call his neighborhood model rental agency, or Nudes R Us, or wherever artists get those models, and tell the shipping department to send around a young woman who will disrobe and pose. It’s totally socially acceptable.


But what if a writer wants to write a description of an unclad woman? If a writer called a model agency, and the young woman arrived and saw him sitting at his keyboard, and he asked her to remove her clothes and pose while he wrote about her, she would probably sock him, intimate loudly that he was a pervert, and call the cops. Again, the poor writer has to work from memory.


Why is it that artists are allowed to do things writers are not? Why is it that they can unabashedly advertise that they are making copies of masterpieces, and instead of being criticized for lack of originality and of semi-fraud, their efforts are offered to architects and decorators so those professionals can provide clients with the best quality fake Monet renderings of water lily ponds?


Anybody want to buy a neatly typed manuscript of “Martin Chuzzlewit” in Dickens’s own words? I can supply one cheap. And with even lower rates for Xerox copies.