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What happens when two artists paint the same picture?

Michael Luther working at his picture (c) Michael Luther

I could hardly believe it when I first came across it, but then I took a look at the two paintings. Coincidentally, and without even knowing about each other two artists Michael Luther, Berlin and Damien Hirst (famous worldwide) have painted the same painting!

Inspired by a photo on the front page of the 'Berliner Zeitung', Michael Luther started working on a painting in the summer of 2004 that would be the beginning of a small series production. The painting illustrates the salvage operation of a wounded Iraqi's after a terrorist attack. It converts the photo whose composition reflects an image formation of classic painting. The light direction, the 'chiaroscuro' and the colour are handled in a mannerist way, yet the picture preserves the lifelike rendering of a photograph. Links to a deposition from the cross by Pontormo and to the dramatic picture editing of a painting by Caravaggio seem to be projected in this. A few days ago attention was drawn to Michael Luther in the March edition of the English art magazine 'Modern Painters' with the heading Hirst/Caravaggio. He doesn't believe his eyes: On one of the photos attached to Martin Gayfords' article he sees Damien Hirst working on a painting which at first glance looks almost identical to his own. They explain that Hirst has been working for a very long time on this series production of paintings that are not alike his usual works. These paintings should also be "not quite like anything anyone else has done either."
Of course the two pictures are not completely identical. It is impossible to paint the same painting twice; the photos taken of the works by Hirst and Luther also show some stylistic differences. Hirst does not seem to caste any form of light direction on his painting. This differs from Luther who, as well as focussing on light direction also illustrates a strong contrast between light and dark ('chiaroscuro'). It is also clear to see that two different moments of the same situation are being illustrated, the stances of one of the figures on the left side of the painting clearly differ from one another.

Therefore, we could probably pass it off as a freaky coincidence, a crazy anecdote that should be noted in the history of art. I am now very curious to see how this story will relate to further enhance aspects of the art market. As everybody knows the formal or stylistic difference cannot justify the value difference assigned by the art market to two similar works. This curious coincidence will probably stress and acknowledge the most criticised mechanism of this market.

Text: Nicolas Clémens
Translation: Naomi Raber

To compare the two pictures, please click on the following link:

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