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Defining the Masterpiece

What Makes a Masterpiece a Masterpiece?

Hmmmm…..Well, that depends on who you talk to.  Ask 100 people, and you’re likely to get 100 different answers.  As the saying goes, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

True enough, but you have to admit that there’s something about truly great art – I’m talking knock-your-socks-off, absolutely stunning art that almost everyone knows belongs in the category of Masterpiece; artistic excellence which is instantly recognized, whether seen through the eyes of a distinguished fine art collector or someone who has absolutely no interest in art whatsoever.

Everyone just knows it’s good – I mean, REALLY, REALLY GOOD – the moment they see it. 

It has a certain “je ne sais quoi”, to borrow a phrase from my fine French friends, which, loosely translated, means “a pleasant quality that is hard to describe.”

Webster defines masterpiece as: 1. a work done with extraordinary skill; especially: a supreme intellectual or artistic achievement.  2. a piece of work presented to a medieval guild as evidence of qualification for the rank of master.

But how does one KNOW it’s a masterpiece?  In other words, who says so?

Ahhh, the elusive description of that quality of craftsmanship and talent so undeniably exceptional that mere words simply cannot seem to do it justice. 

Perhaps because it’s only recognized and understood deep within one’s soul and it’s there, and only there, that it can be rightfully and accurately defined; its secrets locked away forever, buried beneath the murky impenetrable layers of one’s innermost being like a pirate’s treasure chest lost at sea.

I’ve tried in earnest to discover those esoteric, ethereal qualities and attributes that lend themselves to truly great works of art by intently studying paintings by the Masters – Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Renoir, Degas, Van Gogh, and many more – seeking the “key” that would burst open the padlock securing the vessel containing those hidden gems of knowledge and understanding of what makes a Masterpiece, well, a Masterpiece. 

Alas, for me, the treasure is still buried along with the map to get there.  Or maybe it’s right in front of me, but I just can’t see it.

I’ll keep on exploring and seeking, though.  If I dig up any golden nuggets of knowledge in the near future, I’ll be sure to share them with you.

Have you found your treasure chest filled to the brim with wisdom and understanding about what makes a piece of art glow with brilliance? 

Are you an artist or a fine art collector that has nailed the definition of Masterpiece? 

If so, I’d love to hear your story.  What makes for a Masterpiece to you?