Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 June 2012
Consistent co-authorship of painting or other works of advanced visual art did not occur prior to the late twentieth century. In recent decades, however, this practice has been followed by a handful of teams of important artists. Yet the history of visual artists working together suggests that co-authorship is likely to become more widespread in the future, and for this reason the practice is of greater interest than would be warranted by the limited number of artists who have already adopted it. A brief survey of this history can help us to understand its recent emergence.
Before Modern Art
Joint production of paintings was an accepted practice in the Renaissance, as eminent masters presided over studios that might comprise dozens of students and assistants. So for example Vasari reported that when Raphael became successful he employed a large number of assistants and “was never seen at court without some fifty painters.” John Pope-Hennessy noted that in this phase of his career “Raphael over a large part of his work became an ideator instead of an executant,” as he made detailed preparatory drawings or cartoons for works that would then be painted by assistants. Raphael's practice of having his plans executed by others was a consequence of his conceptual approach to art, for he clearly considered the essence of his works to lie in their conception. Art scholars have generally agreed, as for example E. H. Gombrich described Raphael's images as “ideas come to life.”