The first ‘old master’ who ever caught my eye was Rembrandt. Probably somewhere around the age of 12 or 13 I found a book of his paintings at the library, and was impressed by his use of color and lighting, especially with some of the dramatic chiaroscuro techniques (which I would later learn in college was the name for it) involving lots of golds and yellows (like the example above). I also found his frequent self portraits, done at different periods of his life very interesting.
His was also the first artwork I was to see ‘up close’ at the Detroit Institute of Art, probably around the age of 14 or 15 on a school trip, and I used my ‘souvenir money’ to purchase a small book of reproductions in the museum gift shop.
I was slightly disappointed in the originals after seeing several of them reproduced in art books, and I’ve often found myself with this feeling whenever I ‘make a pilgrimage’ to see some famous piece of art. Somehow I prefer the printed versions. Probably the ‘inner illustrator’ in me only feels comfortable seeing work as the end product of the repro process.
Then, when I got to art school, and took my first ‘art history’ classes, I was really looking forward to getting to the ‘Dutch masters’ so I could learn all about my hero Rembrandt, but by that time the infatuation was starting to fade, and I was discovering all sorts of new and interesting artists to emulate and admire. But you never quite forget that first love.