The term Old Master is used to identify any eminent European artist from the approximate period 1300 to 1850 and includes artists from the Gothic through to the Romantic movement.

Old Masters embraces Italian gold ground paintings, Flemish primitives, the Italian Renaissance, Mannerism, the Baroque, the Rococo, Neo-Classicism and the Romantic movement, including everything from Giotto to Delacroix taking in Botticelli, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Wilson and Gainsborough et al, en route. The media can be pencil, pen and ink, chalk, tempera and oil on supports such as linen, canvas, copper, paper and panel and a multitude of other materials available at the time.

The term was widely used from the 18th Century and this is in part, due, to the founding of Public Art Galleries, Drawing Schools and Academies, which fostered an interest in the skills and techniques of the great masters. Sir Joshua Reynolds, for instance, admired and imitated the tone of Rembrandt’s work and his favourite artist was Michelangelo.

As with any concept that encompasses such a broad range of art and artists, there is some significant debate as to the exact criteria that define an Old Master, particularly regarding the time frame and relative merits of the painters. Not all old painters were masters but we have to value them just the same.

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