What is the best era to be an artist? A lot of people think the best time to have been an artist is long in the past, but in this post, I'm going to tell you why I think the best time to be an artist is probably right now.
Reason #1 Artistic Freedom
The reason people think the best time to be an artist was the middle ages or the Renaissance . photography hadn't been invented yet,so if you were a painter, your services were needed for portraits and such.
That's true, but the price painters paid for more job opportunities was a lack of freedom. Almost all art was done on commission, meaning a patron specified how a piece would be done, what would be in it, what materials would be used, etc. Very few artists were able to just paint whatever they wanted and sell it.
Commissions is still a big part of how a lot artists make their living today, but the paint what you want and sell it route, is also a very real option.
Even if you did have the luxury of pretty much painting whatever you wanted, if you were an artist in the middle ages, there were rules put down by the government and the church that dictated certain things about your art. These included what colors you could use and how much of them and how portraits were to be painted.
Depending on the subject, a portrait might have to be...
front facing, three quarter view, or completely to the side.
Reason #2 Artistic Respect
Artists were not valued before the Renaissance. It's arguable if they were even valued then, but artists were definitely not valued before the Renaissance. Oh, art was valued for sure, but not artists.
Art was seen as a manual labor job. People looked on artists similarly to the way we look at fast food workers today, ie, they were someone who you instructed to make something for you and they made it. Artists weren't considered to be creative. It was the patron, the person who commissioned the art, who was considered the creator of the art.
The fact that art was done by a certain artists didn't even make it valuable. As stated in an article cited in this post, if a drawing done by Picasso was found on a napkin, it would be valuable simply because it was done by Picasso, because of his reputation. In the Middle Ages, however, what made art valuable was purely the materials used in it, which like I said, were chosen by the patron not the artist.
I wonder if this is why before the Renaissance, almost no artist bothered to sign their work, hmmm.
Reason #3 How Easy It Is To Actually Make Art, Comparatively Speaking
The ability to squeeze paint out of tube, like this
and use it immediately, was unheard of before the nineteenth century. Before that time, artists had to make their own paint by mixing dry pigments with the vehicle, the thing that makes the paint wet, which at the time was usually water or oil, and binding ingredients. Of course, if you were luck enough to become a Master, you could have your apprentices do this manual labor for you.
On top of making the paint, artists had to spend a lot of time mixing colors because there were so few available.
So in short, artists in the old days might have had more job opportunities, but they also had less freedom and respect.
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Painter of portraits and wildlife