Once humans moved from being nomadic to subsistence farming, accumulated land and wealth, patronage was soon to follow.
Patronage, the financial sponsorship of artists by individuals or institutions, paved the way for some of history’s most enduring works of art—so much so, in fact, that history only began regularly recording the names of the artists themselves around the time of the Renaissance.
The first patrons were the religious organizations that were trying to share bible stories with a population that was largely illiterate. From there patronage moved to wealthy individuals who wanted to enhance their prestige and power. Art was the way they did that. They hired artists to create portraits that represented themselves, and their families in the best possible way. I've heard that before Anne Boleyn was beheaded a portrait of her with her family was created in an effort to show the French public what a devout mother she was. The effort was valiant and didn't change the outcome of her fate.
Art may have also been an early form of money laundering as wealthy individuals found ways to recycle their questionably acquired money into something tangible.
Two very well known names who had a strong patronage relationship was that between the Medici and Michelangelo; the Sforza family and Leonardo da Vinci. The Last Supper (Leonardo) and The Last Judgement (Michelangelo) being two pieces created under a patronage relationship.
In the 19th Century patronage relationship have evolved to support artists producing works without a predetermined buyer in mind. Artists making work on their own time and their own dime.
When Gustave Courbet had three of his 14 pieces rejected by the French academics for the "Exposition Universelle" claiming they were too large to be displayed, he boldly rented the building next door to the exhibition and displayed 40 of his pieces in his own exhibition.
Courbet turned the dismissal into his own opportunity. You see this all the time. Artists use their creativity to think outside the norms and create something unique that supports their work outside the normal structures. Courbet's exhibit is the first known solo exhibition. It led the way for Realism and Impressionist painters to have their own shows and have a greater stake in the sale of their artwork.
This fact is very interesting because it had not occurred to me that in my own career I'm following in the steps of Courbet with my solo show in the fall of 2019 and the direct sales to collectors through my studio and website. Very cool.
Ashley Longshore is a name that comes to mind as an artist who has paved her own way in modern times. She has been touted as a pop artist to rival Andy Warhol and who has challenged the business model of traditional art galleries.
She has partnered with Bergdorf's, the first female artist in the history of art with to do that. She has also paved the path for art and fashion to co-exist. I've included a link for you to check out her work.
So patronage, patron's support of artists has been an historical relationship that lives on today.
It's one that I have recently embraced in my business. I know I have raving fans all over social media and within my email list and yet purchasing an original painting is only one way those fans can engage with my work. I have just developed a 4 tier subscription that gives patrons the opportunity to receive beautiful stationery/gifts during the year or even an original painting - depending on the level of subscription they select.
I'm excited to walk in the shadows of Longshore, Courbet, Michelangelo and Leonardo. Continuing the legacy of great art getting into the hands of patrons who appreciate the skill, time and beautiful of the art that is created.
If you are curious about the subscriptions I have available, plans start at $5/month, you can take a closer look by clicking the button below.