Old Master

Old Master

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"Old Master" is a term for a European painter
Painting
Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a surface . The application of the medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush but other objects can be used. In art, the term painting describes both the act and the result of the action. However, painting is...

 of skill who worked before about 1800, or a painting by such an artist. An "old master print
Old master print
An old master print is a work of art produced by a printing process within the Western tradition . A date of about 1830 is usually taken as marking the end of the period whose prints are covered by this term. The main techniques concerned are woodcut, engraving and etching, although there are...

" is an original print
Printmaking
Printmaking is the process of making artworks by printing, normally on paper. Printmaking normally covers only the process of creating prints with an element of originality, rather than just being a photographic reproduction of a painting. Except in the case of monotyping, the process is capable...

 (for example an engraving
Engraving
Engraving is the practice of incising a design on to a hard, usually flat surface, by cutting grooves into it. The result may be a decorated object in itself, as when silver, gold, steel, or glass are engraved, or may provide an intaglio printing plate, of copper or another metal, for printing...

 or etching
Etching
Etching is the process of using strong acid or mordant to cut into the unprotected parts of a metal surface to create a design in intaglio in the metal...

) made by an artist in the same period. Likewise an "old master drawing
Drawing
Drawing is a form of visual art that makes use of any number of drawing instruments to mark a two-dimensional medium. Common instruments include graphite pencils, pen and ink, inked brushes, wax color pencils, crayons, charcoal, chalk, pastels, markers, styluses, and various metals .An artist who...

".

In theory an Old Master should be an artist who was fully trained, was a Master of his local artists' guild
Guild of Saint Luke
The Guild of Saint Luke was the most common name for a city guild for painters and other artists in early modern Europe, especially in the Low Countries. They were named in honor of the Evangelist Luke, the patron saint of artists, who was identified by John of Damascus as having painted the...

, and worked independently, but in practice paintings considered to be produced by pupils or workshops will be included in the scope of the term. Therefore, beyond a certain level of competence, date rather than quality is the criterion for using the term.

Period covered


In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the term often had a starting date of perhaps 1450 or 1470; paintings made before that were "primitives"; but this distinction is no longer made. The original OED from the beginning of the 20th century, defines the term as "a 'master' who lived before the period accounted 'modern', chiefly applied to painters from the 13th to the 16th or 17th century." Rather surprisingly, the first quotation they give is from a popular encyclopedia of 1840: "As a painter of animals, Edwin Landseer far surpasses any of the old masters". There are comparable terms in Dutch, French and German; the Dutch may have been the first to make use of the term, in the 18th century, when it mostly meant painters of the Dutch Golden Age
Dutch Golden Age painting
Dutch Golden Age painting is the painting of the Dutch Golden Age, a period in Dutch history generally spanning the 17th century, during and after the later part of the Eighty Years War for Dutch independence. The new Dutch Republic was the most prosperous nation in Europe, and led European trade,...

 of the previous century. Les Maitres d'autrefois of 1876 by Eugene Fromentin
Eugène Fromentin
Eugène Fromentin was a French painter and writer.He was born in La Rochelle. After leaving school he studied for some years under Louis Cabat, the landscape painter...

 may have helped to popularize the concept, although "vieux maitres" is also used in French. The famous collection in Dresden
Dresden
Dresden is the capital city of the Free State of Saxony in Germany. It is situated in a valley on the River Elbe, near the Czech border. The Dresden conurbation is part of the Saxon Triangle metropolitan area....

 at the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister
Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister
The Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden features major works of art. It is located in the gallery wing of the Zwinger....

 is one of the few museums to include the term in its actual name, although many more use it in the title of departments or sections. The collection in the Dresden museum essentially stops at the Baroque
Baroque
The Baroque is a period and the style that used exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in sculpture, painting, literature, dance, and music...

 period.

The end-date is necessarily vague—Goya (1746–1828) is certainly an Old Master, and he was still painting and printmaking
Printmaking
Printmaking is the process of making artworks by printing, normally on paper. Printmaking normally covers only the process of creating prints with an element of originality, rather than just being a photographic reproduction of a painting. Except in the case of monotyping, the process is capable...

 at his death in 1828. For example the term might be used, but usually is not, about John Constable
John Constable
John Constable was an English Romantic painter. Born in Suffolk, he is known principally for his landscape paintings of Dedham Vale, the area surrounding his home—now known as "Constable Country"—which he invested with an intensity of affection...

 (1776–1837) or Eugène Delacroix
Eugène Delacroix
Ferdinand Victor Eugène Delacroix was a French Romantic artist regarded from the outset of his career as the leader of the French Romantic school...

 (1798–1868).

The term tends to be avoided by Art historians as too vague, especially when discussing paintings, although the terms Old Master Prints and Old Master drawings are still used. It remains more current in the art trade. Auction houses still usually divide their sales between, for example: "Old Master Paintings", "Nineteenth-century paintings" and "Modern paintings". Christie's
Christie's
Christie's is an art business and a fine arts auction house.- History :The official company literature states that founder James Christie conducted the first sale in London, England, on 5 December 1766, and the earliest auction catalogue the company retains is from December 1766...

 defines the term as ranging "from the 14th to the early 19th century".

Anonymous artists


Artists, most often from early periods, whose hand has been identified by art historians, but to whom no identity can be confidently attached, are often given names by art historians such as Master E.S. (from his monogram), Master of Flémalle (from a previous location of a work), Master of Mary of Burgundy
Mary of Burgundy
Mary of Burgundy ruled the Burgundian territories in Low Countries and was suo jure Duchess of Burgundy from 1477 until her death...

 (from a patron), Master of Latin 757 (from the shelf mark of a manuscript he illuminated), Master of the Brunswick Diptych

Incomplete list of the most important Old Masters



  • Giotto di Bondone
    Giotto di Bondone
    Giotto di Bondone , better known simply as Giotto, was an Italian painter and architect from Florence in the late Middle Ages...

     (Italian, 1267–1337)
  • Jan van Eyck
    Jan van Eyck
    Jan van Eyck was a Flemish painter active in Bruges and considered one of the best Northern European painters of the 15th century....

     (Flemish, 1395–1441)
  • Rogier van der Weyden (Flemish, 1400–1464)
  • Hieronymus Bosch (Dutch, 1450–1516)
  • Leonardo da Vinci
    Leonardo da Vinci
    Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was an Italian Renaissance polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer whose genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance...

     (Italian, 1452–1519)
  • Albrecht Dürer
    Albrecht Dürer
    Albrecht Dürer was a German painter, printmaker, engraver, mathematician, and theorist from Nuremberg. His prints established his reputation across Europe when he was still in his twenties, and he has been conventionally regarded as the greatest artist of the Northern Renaissance ever since...

     (German, 1471–1528)
  • Michelangelo
    Michelangelo
    Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni , commonly known as Michelangelo, was an Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet, and engineer who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art...

     (Italian, 1475–1564)
  • Titian
    Titian
    Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio (c. 1488/1490 – 27 August 1576 better known as Titian was an Italian painter, the most important member of the 16th-century Venetian school. He was born in Pieve di Cadore, near...

     (Italian, c.1477–1576)
  • Sandro Botticelli
    Sandro Botticelli
    Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi, better known as Sandro Botticelli was an Italian painter of the Early Renaissance...

     (Italian, 1445–1510)
  • Raphael (Italian, 1483–1520)
  • Hans Holbein the Younger
    Hans Holbein the Younger
    Hans Holbein the Younger was a German artist and printmaker who worked in a Northern Renaissance style. He is best known as one of the greatest portraitists of the 16th century. He also produced religious art, satire and Reformation propaganda, and made a significant contribution to the history...

     (German, 1497–1543)
  • Jacopo Tintoretto
    Tintoretto
    Tintoretto , real name Jacopo Comin, was a Venetian painter and a notable exponent of the Renaissance school. For his phenomenal energy in painting he was termed Il Furioso...

     (Italian, 1518–1594)
  • Pieter Bruegel the Elder
    Pieter Brueghel the Elder
    Pieter Bruegel the Elder was a Flemish renaissance painter and printmaker known for his landscapes and peasant scenes . He is sometimes referred to as the "Peasant Bruegel" to distinguish him from other members of the Brueghel dynasty, but he is also the one generally meant when the context does...

     (Flemish, c.1525–1569)
  • Paolo Veronese
    Paolo Veronese
    Paolo Veronese was an Italian painter of the Renaissance in Venice, famous for paintings such as The Wedding at Cana and The Feast in the House of Levi...

     (Italian, c.1528–1588)
  • El Greco
    El Greco
    El Greco was a painter, sculptor and architect of the Spanish Renaissance. "El Greco" was a nickname, a reference to his ethnic Greek origin, and the artist normally signed his paintings with his full birth name in Greek letters, Δομήνικος Θεοτοκόπουλος .El Greco was born on Crete, which was at...

     (Greek-born Spanish, 1541–1614)
  • Frans Hals
    Frans Hals
    Frans Hals was a Dutch Golden Age painter. He is notable for his loose painterly brushwork, and helped introduce this lively style of painting into Dutch art. Hals was also instrumental in the evolution of 17th century group portraiture.-Biography:Hals was born in 1580 or 1581, in Antwerp...

     (Dutch, 1580–1666)
  • Caravaggio (Italian, 1573–1610)
  • Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, 1577–1640)
  • Nicolas Poussin
    Nicolas Poussin
    Nicolas Poussin was a French painter in the classical style. His work predominantly features clarity, logic, and order, and favors line over color. His work serves as an alternative to the dominant Baroque style of the 17th century...

     (French, 1594–1665)
  • Diego Velázquez
    Diego Velázquez
    Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez was a Spanish painter who was the leading artist in the court of King Philip IV. He was an individualistic artist of the contemporary Baroque period, important as a portrait artist...

     (Spanish, 1599–1660)
  • Francisco de Zurbarán (Spanish, 1598–1664))
  • Bartolomé Esteban Murillo
    Bartolomé Estéban Murillo
    Bartolomé Esteban Murillo was a Spanish Baroque painter. Although he is best known for his religious works, Murillo also produced a considerable number of paintings of contemporary women and children...

     (Spanish, 1617–1682
  • Jan Havickszoon Steen (Dutch, 1625-1626–1679)
  • Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669)
  • Johannes Vermeer
    Johannes Vermeer
    Johannes, Jan or Johan Vermeer was a Dutch painter who specialized in exquisite, domestic interior scenes of middle class life. Vermeer was a moderately successful provincial genre painter in his lifetime...

     (Dutch, 1632–1675)
  • Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
    Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
    Giovanni Battista Tiepolo , also known as Gianbattista or Giambattista Tiepolo, was an Italian painter and printmaker from the Republic of Venice...

     (Italian, 1691–1770)
  • Joshua Reynolds
    Joshua Reynolds
    Sir Joshua Reynolds RA FRS FRSA was an influential 18th-century English painter, specialising in portraits and promoting the "Grand Style" in painting which depended on idealization of the imperfect. He was one of the founders and first President of the Royal Academy...

     (English, 1723–1792)
  • Francisco Goya
    Francisco Goya
    Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes was a Spanish romantic painter and printmaker regarded both as the last of the Old Masters and the first of the moderns. Goya was a court painter to the Spanish Crown, and through his works was both a commentator on and chronicler of his era...

     (Spanish, 1746–1828)
  • Jacques-Louis David
    Jacques-Louis David
    Jacques-Louis David was an influential French painter in the Neoclassical style, considered to be the preeminent painter of the era...

     (French 1748–1825)
  • Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres
    Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres
    Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres was a French Neoclassical painter. Although he considered himself to be a painter of history in the tradition of Nicolas Poussin and Jacques-Louis David, by the end of his life it was Ingres's portraits, both painted and drawn, that were recognized as his greatest...

    (French, 1780–1867)