Art, Artisans and Apprentices by James Ayres
Before the foundation of academies of art in London in 1768 and Philadelphia in 1805, most individuals who were to emerge as artists trained in workshops of varying degrees of relevance. Easel painters began their careers apprenticed to carriage, house, sign or ship painters, whilst a few were placed with those who made pictures. Sculptors emerged from a training as ornamental plasterers or carvers. Of the many other trades in a position to offer an appropriate background were ‘limning’, staining, engraving, surveying, chasing and die-sinking. In addition, plumbers gained the right to use oil painting and, for plasterers, the application of distemper was an extension of their trade. Central to the theme of this book is the notion that, for those who were to become either painters or sculptors, a training in a trade met their practical needs. This ‘training’ was of an altogether different nature to an ‘education’ in an art school. In the past, prospective artists were offered, by means of apprenticeships, an empirical rather than a theoretical understanding of their ultimate vocation.
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