Commissioned Art

by Stephanie Staup

Many of the world’s great works of art exist today because someone commissioned them. According to Wikipedia,

The Roman Coliseum for example, was commissioned by Emperor Vespasian. Public statuary was widespread, depicting mythical and heroic figures. The frieze that is carved into the Marcus Column, located at the Campus Martius, depicts the figure of Victory, and would have been commissioned to honour successful military campaigns waged by Marcus Aurelius.[1] Ancient Roman culture was anti-intellectual and held artists in low esteem, in contrast to ancient cultures such as the Greek[2] or Babylonian. Despite this, however, the sheer amount of surviving artworks commissioned at the height of the Roman Empire are a testament to the rulers’ recognition of art’s effectiveness in influencing the public’s opinions about its civilization and its government.

During the Renaissance, visual art flourished in the cities of Italy due to the patronage of wealthy merchants and government officials, such as Cesare Borgia. Leonardo da Vinci earned steady commissions for artwork ranging from paintings (such as the Virgin of the Rocks for the Church of San Francisco Grande), to murals (The Last Supper for the monastery church of Santa Maria della Grazia), to sculptures (the Great Horse at Sforza).[3] The most famous commissioned artwork of the Renaissance may be the Sistin

e Chapel ceiling at the Vatican, painted by Michelangelo as a commission for Pope Julius II.

Dog and sock monkeyFor an artist, getting a commission is thrilling. I have a few pieces that I am working on under commission currently. Well, ok. It is mostly for friends, but it is commissioned work. I am doing a painting of a mother with her child for a friend, a full-length portrait of another friend, and a painting of someone’s pet. On the one hand, the subject matter is predetermined and that takes one of the decision points off the table. How an artist interprets that predetermined subject is something else altogether. If I am doing work for close friends or for people I know, it’s easier. I can call upon a connection I already have with the subject.  That was the case in the piece shown here. A friend wanted a picture of his dog and a sock monkey. I know it would be more difficult if I was less familiar with my subject. In that case, it’s more important for the client to be familiar with my work and style.

An artist always runs the risk that the client may not like the work. One just has to recall the recent controversy over the portrait of Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge. The work was commissioned to be done by artist, Paul Emsley. In the end, she said she liked it but there were plenty of critics who weighed in on the matter.

When taking on a commission here are some important things to remember:

  1. Communicate throughout the entire process.
  2. Make sure you know what your client is expecting.
  3. Make sure your client knows your work.

Here’s a helpful article from a helpful website called ArtBusiness.com. Good luck with your own commissions!

©Stephanie Staup 2013

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