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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Art reflecting life reflecting art

This week I saw the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston for the first time. Among its recent acquisitions is a painting with photographic realism of the exhibit room in which it hangs. It's called Museum Epiphany III, and there's a very good write up of it at Art and Design Report,  and at Artfixdaily, my source for the picture, which is larger than on at the former site.

The woman and girl dressed in white sleeveless dresses echo the statues in drapery and pose with bent elbows and stand out from the rest of the people who are all dressed in dark  clothes more suitable for fall or winter.  At/ you can see a picture of the artist painting this work.

By the way, the people working at this museum  are the friendliest of all art museum staff I've encountered so far, and pictures without flash are allowed unless otherwise noted. Some museums, like the Frick Collection, do not allow any photography, even for sculptures around the fountain. The intent is to protect copyright rather than the artwork. You may be surprised how many art works are copyright protected.

It was explained in a New York Times article about Cameron's switch of paintings from the first to the second release of Titanic.
Artists’ copyright is frequently misunderstood. Even if a painting (or drawing or photograph) has been sold to a collector or a museum, in general, the artist or his heirs retain control of the original image for 70 years after the artist’s death.
Think of a novel. You may own a book, but you don’t own the writer’s words; they remain the intellectual property of the author for a time.
So while MoMA owns the actual canvas of “Les Demoiselles,” the family of Picasso, who died in 1973, still owns the image. And under existing law, the estate will continue to own the copyright until 2043.
If someone wants to reproduce the painting — on a Web site, a calendar, a T-shirt, or in a film — it is the estate that must give its permission, not the museum. That is why, despite the expansion, Google Art Project still does not contain a single Picasso.


  1. Having grown up in the Boston area and especially as a student in college, I used to go often to the MFA. It was a wonderful museum, and this looks like an inspiring exhibit. I did not know that Picasso's family still had the rights to his art - I often have to warn my clients about their choices of images. Some are quite ignorant about copyright law.

  2. Leora, I really enjoyed seeing it. The painting I wrote about here was only completed last year. Though it was not commissioned by the museum, it purchased it and hung it in the gallery it depicts. I believe it is the only 21st Century work there, for it is otherwise devoted to 19th Century works. While the picture is striking even on its own, in the context of what it depicts, it is that much more effective.

    Copyright laws are rather complicated. I only discovered the restriction on Picasso's works when I looked into why Google Art failed to include anything by him even when it featured museums that exhibited a large number of his works. I've also discovered from the restriction on photography from certain works in museums that living artists often don't want people to have their own images of their work.