The time-honoured practice of copying or painting after masters gets a bad rap in some quarters. I don’t think they spend much time on this in many art schools and well, try submitting a derivative work into a local art competition. I’m not a natural copyist but have taken time to warm up to the practice. Issac Newton famously said “If I have seen further than others, it’s by standing on the shoulders of giants”.
Before photography, reproduction had an intrinsic value….transporting images between far-flung countries, audiences and studios. It was also employed to teach artists their craft and the two went hand in hand. Even then, there were “copies” that took an image in a very different direction. In our own National Gallery, Rubens “The Entombment“ parts company from the Caravaggio original in scale, tone, composition and message. Caravaggio, all dramatics and tragedy and Rubens, more intimate and sensitive.
Working from a masterwork can be a creative imperative too. Take Francis Bacon’s fascination with Velázquez’s magnificent Pope Innocent X. Bacon, by the way, never saw the original – copying the original was not his intent!
Perhaps the best way to see another work is through some form of copying, really getting close to the design, the values, colours and brushwork – perhaps even transporting you to the artist and their times, their life, their travails and resulting intent.