Master Copyist

Grace Kim has copied paintings at the National Gallery of Art since 1998. With permission, she copies from master paintings one day each week, a practice that started when she joined an art group whose members suggested that she apply to become a copyist. While the museum encourages copying for educational purposes, available spaces are limited.

For Kim, each copy takes up to seven months to produce as access is limited by the museum to only once a week. The National Gallery insists that copies be at least two inches larger or smaller than the original, a preventative against substitution or theft. Also, copies are limited to 40 inches in height and width.

An artists legally can sell a copy provided the artist signs his or her own name followed by “copy after” plus the original artist’s name on the front of the painting. Kim, however, doesn’t sell her copies of master paintings and doesn’t know anyone who tries to make a living from copying. “Painting in a public setting took a huge leap of confidence for me, but it was worth it! These wonderful paintings inspire me to greater effort in my own work and have helped me learn much more quickly the basic skills that I needed to become a better artist.”

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