The status of truly world-renowned artists has never been higher, as can be measured in the huge market prices that are achieved by works of living artists such as Damien Hirst, and more recently deceased artists like Picasso and Van Gogh. Some of the Renaissance masterpieces by Michelangelo and da Vinci also command almost priceless valuations. These famous artists, however, represent only the tip of a huge iceberg, and by far the majority of working artists struggle to make a living from their art, often resorting to part-time work order to pay for their materials and keep body and soul together.
It is one of the great ironies of the profession that most artists spend many years in abject poverty, only to be recognized and feted late in life when they are too old to make much use of their fame and wealth. Defining what an artist actually is can be a difficult proposition. Perhaps we should take the words of one of the world’ s greatest artists, Pablo Picasso, who said: What do you think an artist is?
imbecile who has only his eyes if he is a painter, or his ears if he is a musician? On the contrary, he is at the same time a political being, constantly on the alert for the heart-rending, burning, or happy events in the world, molding himself in their likeness. This definition places the artist firmly at the cutting edge of history, with a hotline to the burning issues of the day and finding ways to engage with them using his whole being. It suggests that status should be from the artist’ s mind and that his duty is to refine his skills so that he can faithfully represent what is happening around him.
Picasso also makes it clear that there is no one thing that qualifies as art. He mentions music as well as painting in this quotation, and he himself produced works in many different media including paintings, collages, and sculpture. Art can be made with many different media and forms, and this allows artists the ability to adapt and change over history, adapting materials, techniques, and which come in and out of use over time.
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