In the arts, imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery. It’s plagiarism, and it’s a bad way to make a name for yourself.
E.A. Taylor, the Scottish artist, teacher and Paris correspondent for International Studio Magazine back in 1912, wrote dramatically about the misguided practice of young artists copying their heroes as a means of finding success.
The pity of it is that they (artists who imitate other artists) do not early realize that no two men see alike, and that to compress themselves into feeble tabloid editions of the recognized past and foremost present-day workers is not creating anything new in art, but is merely a display of superficial mediocrity. The true artist must surely feel the unrest in his soul in spite of the world’s applause, gained so often at the loss of oneself, and won lane by the ability in being able to assimilate. Only when he awakens betimes to conceive the horror of the long, tight tentacles of pose and imitation will he find lasting joy in his art; and if he can but add his little inimitable thought and originality to the flickering embers, how welcome it will be! Certainly it is only a fool who will not accept a known and tried experience in such ways as it serves to fulfill his wants. Influences will and must arise; but only the cunning workman will hide them, and toil on in elaborating his self-conscious frauds, imparting his unscrupulous methods to the young and innocent, deceiving the many and killing his own soul.
International Studio: An Illustrated Magazine of Fine and Applied Art Volume XLV. No. 180, 1912
Illustration by Honore Daumier (1808-79)