Painting by Bruce Campbell of the Master Copyists from The National Gallery
Credit: Painting by Bruce I. Campbell, oil on canvas, 2013, based on original, Favorite of the Emir, Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant, oil on canvas, 1879

Timeless Tradition

The National Gallery of Art will happily let you sketch with dry materials in its galleries—“it allows us time to see more and experience works of art through a different lens,” they say online. Still, pencil and paper are no match for the bright colors and bold shapes of an Impressionist painting. If you’d like to copy a work in paint, though, you must apply for a copyists’ permit. Timeless Tradition: Master Copyists From The National Gallery of Art’s Copyist Program is an exhibition of those works by a group of accomplished copyists on display at the Athenaeum in Alexandria. The exhibit includes work by Bruce Campbell, Christopher Madden, Sarah Bentley, and others who are provided the unique opportunity to imitate art from masters such as Vincent Van Gogh and John Singer Sargent through copying. The National Gallery’s copyists’ program started in 1941 and continues to evolve; more than 8,000 permits have been issued to copy paintings in galleries since then. The copies are accompanied by artists’ statements explaining how they chose the work to imitate and what they learned by doing so. If you want to hear more, the exhibition will conclude this weekend with a meet the artist social event on June 27 at 3 p.m. The exhibition runs to June 27 at the Athenaeum, 201 Prince St., Alexandria. Free.