Arts: Before the Boldness Vanished

"Many painters," the biographer Giorgio Vasari noted in 1550, "achieve in the first sketch of their work, as though guided by a sort of fire of inspiration, a certain measure of boldness: but afterwards, in finishing it, the boldness vanishes." The first sketch of which Vasari spoke was usually an oil sketch on relatively fragile paper or unprimed canvas. On it, the artist of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries delineated his ideas, often in considerable detail, and submitted them to a patron for approval. The dash and daring all too often vanished...

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