Commerce and Culture

3. The Economics of Painting: Patronage vs. the Market

Commerce and Culture
Paul A. Cantor

A priceless Klimt painting turned out at auction to have a price - $135 million. Scholarship on painting is sympathetic to markets, unlike scholarship on music. Picasso was even called an entrepreneur.  Picasso was quite wealthy early in his career and died a billionaire. Not every artist starves.

Painting requires a certain level of economic development. Paint was not cheap. Both paintings and tapestries were portable and highly valued. Painting walls or ceilings -was the original mode. Now called frescos, building paintings were, of course, immobile.

The Flemish painter, Peter Paul Rubens, was the most prolific and successful painter of his time. He had a large workshop which would execute his overall sketches.  Rubens would then come in and paint the eye – some specific part. This was simply division of labor. Rubenesque became a brand. Marx would have called this a Rubens sweatshop.

Lecture 3 of 10 from Paul Cantor’s Commerce and Culture.