Artists despite being under the spell of the muse, were under pressure to sell their art to make a living, unless they were economically self-sufficient. To use Bätschmann’s terminology, the artist was caught between self-expression and the market. However, Bätschmann looks mainly at the situation from the late eighteenth-century onwards, but perhaps the conflict first emerges in the previous century with the Italian artist Salvator Rosa. Rosa came from Naples, and because of the lack of interest in his art, he was obliged to remove to Rome, and after that, Florence. We may also encounter in Rosa the first independent artist determined not to sacrifice his artistic vision to the whims of patrons or the pressures of the market. The traditional view of Rosa is that he was contemptuous of the normal mechanisms of patronage, the court and the church, and sought to promote himself outside the normal spheres of artistic production and reception. This view holds that Rosa is the first really independent artist declaring defiance to patrons and organisations intent on controlling the output of Rosa’s studio. Recently another interpretation has been advanced: Rosa- for whatever reasons- felt himself severely marginalised and sought to present his work in the hope that it might catch the eye of patrons and buyers; he exhibited his art in places like the cloisters of San Giovanni Decollato, Rome, because he wanted to attract attention. Whatever his motivations, Rosa did not make life easy for himself. Cursed with a fiery temper, he loathed working for commissions, hated the commercial side of painting, refused to name prices, and wanted freedom to create subjects congenial to him and not his patrons. On one memorable occasion, he said that he let his pencil do the negotiating, a typical Rosa comment.
Of course all this could have been a pose: Rosa promoting the image of an independently-minded artist, uninterested in money, and painting intellectual subject matter, particularly philosophers who relinquished riches. But could these depictions of philosophers like Crates and Diogenes be seen as figures of classical wisdom, or indications of Rosa’s own attitude towards money and economics? We know that on one occasion Rosa did a drawing of Pittura (Painting) as a beggar out in the streets of Rome. It has been suggested that Painting as a Beggar might not express the subject of painters’ fees, but the ‘low status of painting in Rome’ as written in Rosa’s famous satire La Pittura probably dating from the early 1650s. Yet, the drawing might also be linked with a debate between Rosa and a Florentine servant in which philosophical poverty seems to dislodge economic necessity. In this exchange, the servant conjures up an image of Rosa the mendicant standing at the porch of one of the Holy Churches with his staff and poor box. Here, a link between begging and painting is made, and Rosa seems to be conveying much the same idea in the drawing, save instead of the staff and poor box, Pittura has the maulstick, brushes and palette. Another drawing- in Geneva, shows Rosa’s customary satiric slant on the relationship between painting and riches. Inside the artist’s studio Pittura waves a flag at flies that are infesting Rosa’s canvases, a strange conceit symbolising the neglect of the artist’s work and his genius. Two putti representing aspects of the artist’s genius stand idle in front of brushes, perhaps suggesting the artist’s temporary cessation of painting at the lack of interest in his art. Rosa once said in response to the lack of commissions: “I might as well plant my brushes in the garden.” Later in England, a direct link would be made between the arts and the giving of alms, as in the title illustration to the catalogue of an exhibition of the Society of Great British Artists. Here a winged genius next to an easel hands out coins to a beggar watched by a woman and children signifying charity.
In his The Artist in the Modern World, Bätschmann discusses Joseph Anton Koch’s The Artist as Hercules at the Crossroads (1791). As the title suggests, this recalls the iconographical convention of showing the strongman at a junction where he can choose the direction of either Vice or Virtue, symbolised by two different female figures, one stern in mien, and one lax in disposition. In 1791- the time this drawing was done- Koch had escaped the Court College of Art in Stuttgart, and this singular image might be connected with that flight. The statuesque figure on the left represents Art-Virtue, and bears the legend “Imitatio’ which makes her a distant cousin of Pittura, who we last saw begging in the streets of 17th century Rome. The other figure, decked out in garish clothing, could not be further removed from the family of Pittura: she is ‘Art the Whore’ who disconcertingly binds Koch with a chain around his ankle. In addition to symbolising the affected manner of the court, this figure, with its grotesquery, mocks the kind of training that the artist received there. As Bätschmann observes, though this image can be located in 18th century debates about virtue, notably Lord Shaftesbury whose political ideas were linked with the iconography of Hercules at the Crossroads, it also concerns artistic freedom. An artist is free to give up the rewards and riches at court; but the consequence of that is that he may find himself on the stony path of poverty. This was a brave move for Koch because he came from humble origins; he started life as a goatherd, and progressed to painting portraits of bishops, and eventually landscapes modelled on Poussin and Claude. Many of Koch’s predecessors trod the safe road of court patronage which brought distinction and monetary success such as Titian whose paint brush was retrieved by no less than the Emperor Charles V himself, although there is no proof of this event. Assuming that Charles visited Titian’s studio, this would indicate painting appreciated by the powerful and influential, and of course wealthy. Although it may be unsafe to generalise, Koch’s rejection of all this courtly favour reflects the fiercely independent attitude of post-renaissance painters in Germany who exchanged the high wages- and associated arrogance- for humility, artistic integrity, and inevitably, poverty. According to Bätschmann, Koch started a trend of artists moving from state service and the academy to the stand-alone studio best exemplified by Asmus Jakob Carstens who stated that he “did not belong to the Berlin Academy, but to mankind.”
Our third example is an American painter, from Boston, John Single Copley. As Copley’s parents were tradesmen, and women- his mother owned a tobacco shop- the idea of painting for money wouldn’t have been far from Copley’s mind. Copley’s training in Boston is a matter of speculation, but he seems to have been self-taught. Eventually Copley was to shake off his handicaps and raise himself through thrift, hard work and luck to the status of a full member of the Royal Academy in England, encouraged by its President, and another American history painter, Benjamin West. Copley submitted a number of paintings to the Royal Academy for exhibition, but he attained success with the monumental painting Watson and the Shark, representing a terrible accident in Havana in 1749-see below. This tour de force concerns Copley’s client Brook Watson who was business partner of Copley’s brother-in-law, Jonathan Clark. Watson lost a leg to the shark at the age of fourteen, but kept his life due to being rescued, the scene that Copley paints. Interestingly, we never get a real self-portrait from Copley, let alone a peep into his busy studio. His grand portrait of himself with his Boston family throws little life on his methods and attitude towards art. Positioned at the rear of his relatives, the artist clutches a group of drawings, a reference to his artistic profession; he also is standing before the Medici Vase, maybe an allusion to connoisseurship and the Grand Tour. The artificial backlit landscape is typical of the numerous backdrops he would have used to paint fashionable portraits of the rich in society, and this kind of portrait would have found a place on the portrait market in the late eighteenth-century. This elegant group portrait can be compared with the only other self-portrait of Copley. Here, his personality retreats into himself while presenting the shiny surfaces of his art to the viewer. Had we been allowed to venture into Copley’s studio, we would probably have found ourselves surrounded by elegant furnishings admired by a finely dressed painter surveying precious objects obtained from overseas. Copley’s studio reflects his milieu- the world of money, shining social surfaces and colonial expansion.
Copley’s other main genre was history painting, particularly works commemorating current events like the defeat of French troops on St Helier, Jersey on the 22nd May, 1781. A gallant young British officer, Francis Pierson, less than twenty-four years of age, had resisted the French and eventually drove them out, though he lost his life in the battle. The painting shows portraits of officers of the 95th Regiment of the Jersey Militia in the fray, and a black servant of the fallen Pierson, revenging his death. This composition evolved from 17 preparatory drawings and an oil sketch, all united with the finished painting in 1996. Although Copley’s The Death of Major Pierson of 1782-4 was an artistic success, it needed business acumen to make it financially rewarding. To achieve this Copley formed a partnership with John Boydell, dealer in engravings, who paid the painter £800 for the commission, and continued to show the work in his own Cheapside shop after the official exhibition closed. Subscriptions would also be opened for prints of the painting, although the secretive Copley did not record his dealings with Boydell. This sort of commercial activity would have been frowned down upon the Royal Academy and its founder Joshua Reynolds, who chose to ignore the fact that fame did not pay the rent. Things were not improved by the established view that painters were ‘mechanicals’ because they used their hands, and hence could never be intellectuals. This idea was opposed by a number of theorists who believed that painters were capable of intellectual discourse, and so theory became an integral part of art historical teaching, literally illustrated by Reynold’s allegory ‘Theoria’ on the ceiling of the Royal Academy. Copley was certainly in the thick of this debate and his letters speak occasionally of ‘improvement’ which has to be taken as both commercial as well as academic advancement. This is significant because Copley believed that art should refer to the subject of trade, however indirectly, an attitude completely at variance with the Royal Academy. Not that Copley had to worry on this score: he had married the wealthy Susanna Farnham Clark, and begun acquiring property on Beacon Hill, one of Boston’s wealthiest districts. With his temporary exhibitions bankrolled by wealthy patrons like Boydell, he was assured a wealthy sideline outside the main exhibition system. John Singleton Copley had all the trappings of success; he dressed like a dandy, and was quietly amassing a fortune as a portraitist, while his Death of Major Pierson and Watson and the Shark marked him out as rising star in the artistic firmament of eighteenth-century Britain, despite the R.A.’s raised eyebrows at his method of promotion. In this case Pittura’s begging bowl was not required because the cupboard in the artist’s studio was full, business was booming and Pittura had turned into Profit.
 See Xavier F. Salomon’s “Ho Fatto Spiritar Roma”: Salvator Rosa and Seventeenth-Century Exhibitions in Salvator Rosa, ex cat, Dulwich, 2010, 74-99, 75.
 Xavier F. Salomon’s “Ho Fatto Spiritar Roma”, 75.
 Oskar Bätschmann, The Artist in the Modern World, Cologne, 1997, 24-5.
 Bätschmann, The Artist in the Modern World, 63.
 Paolo di Matteis’s version in the Ashmoleon was commissioned by Lord Shaftesbury in 1712.
 John Singleton Copley in England, ex. cat., Emily Ballew Neff and William L. Pressly, Washington and Houston, 1995.
 Bätschmann, The Artist in the Modern World, 34.