If you Google "golden age of art," you get a cascade of articles, primarily on the Dutch Golden Age, dominated by the beautiful works of painters such as Hals and Vermeer. Illustration Friday's word for the week is "Golden," so that started me thinking in this vein.
However, all the experimentation with art is pretty exciting if you think about it. Art is no longer confined to what you can put into a frame on your wall or sit on a pedestal in your garden. Art can incorporate all sorts of sound, light, movement, and technology that was never thought of in the past. I wonder what would Seurat be creating if he were alive today?
Which is not to say that flat art is dead by any means. I just don't think art has the same meaning in today's society that it once did.
I remember when I was young, my aunt and uncle bought a painting to go in their den. I'm sure it was not a wildly expensive piece, but the idea of purchasing a painting was as if it were an investment that you would have for the rest of your life, in much the same way as the photographs of long dead relatives remain on the wall. Everyone in the extended family came to view the painting and discuss its merits.
The times have changed. I remember working in a cooperative gallery about 15 years ago, when a woman came into the gallery with a cushion under her arm, wanting to know if we had anything that would match her sofa. We didn't. It became clear to me that, for her at least, art was about making the decor match and bringing order to her world through color continuity, and not about choosing a piece of art that spoke to her soul, that evoked a memory, or reminded her of a treasured vacation.
With prints being so cheap now, flat wall art can be easily purchased and disposed of anytime you decide to change your decor to the Pantone color pallet of the season. What's an artist to do, and how is an artist supposed to make a living?
It would seem to me that unless you are one of the rare people who gets picked up by a major gallery, you are sort of relegated to outdoor craft fairs or the world of online Print on Demand. Craft fairs can be pretty grueling, being at the whims of weather and insect populations, and POD leaves you cold and empty, because you are operating in something of a vacuum.
Of course, there are millions of ways now to get social with your customers and potential customers without ever leaving your studio. The problem with that is that you then have to constantly cultivate those relationships, which eats into your productivity for art... better to get a day job, I think. More on this to come. For now, I am curious to imagine what the next "golden age" for art will look like.
The quick sketch above uses a watercolor underpainting in shades of gold, with graphite over the top, on a highly textured Indian watercolor paper.