One common preconception regarding art that often annoys me is the persistent myth of the precocious super genius. Here you have two of the most prominent examples: Albrecht Dürer and Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, also known as Raphael, in a fun version of their respective famous self-portraits at age thirteen.
Please do not get me wrong – I thoroughly admire these great artists and by no means want to belittle their talent and achievements. However, since these high achievers have probably discouraged more than one potential career in the arts, I’d like to have a closer look on why they could draw so damn well at their age.
For an aspiring artist in the 16th century, there was only one schooling option and that was to enter the workshop of a master painter at a very young age. (In Dürer’s particular case, he started out with his father, a goldsmith, and later switched to painting.)
This apprenticeship meant work, work, work from dawn till dusk, six days a week. No trade unions back then…. (Or, as Holly Becker puts it: "This is boot camp, not day spa!")
Now imagine you take a reasonably gifted teenager today and keep him away from school, sport, friends, computer games, smart-phones and TV and instead, leave him all day with professional chaperones and let him do nothing else but draw and paint (and mix a lot of colors, but that is another story…).
What do you think - could the outcome be as amazing as the originals below?