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Inspiration from abstract art

Posted: Thu May 04, 2017 4:07 pm
by MrsTwosheds
Hello again all

Sorry - back again! Have been pondering on the following question for a while and was wondering where I stand with this, please.

I am about to embark on the making/embroidery of an item of carnival costume. I had intended using large fluid motifs of primitive leaf shapes randomly sprinkled across a multicoloured base. This is mostly owing to the fact that I wanted something huge (for impact) and simple (because I am lazy).

However, on further research of the vague ideas lodged at the back of my brain, I discover that Matisse has already beaten me to it (although he didn't do any actual sewing as far as I know!) and my design is similar to those made famous by him in his 'cut outs' work. Matisse (as you will know) died in 1954, so his work will still be within copyright and, even worse, I believe that the French copyright laws are complex? I had never intended to use his actual images and colours (and was only vaguely aware of their existence), but what I want to do is plainly inspired by his work and, without even intending to, I could easily stray into dodgy territory here, I guess? Should I go back to the drawing board with this one?

Very many thanks in anticipation, guys.


Posted: Thu May 04, 2017 10:05 pm
by AndyJ
Hi Sally,

Being inspired by another artist is not a problem in itself. It sounds as if you came up with your idea reasonably independently albeit you may have been subconsciously aware of Matisse's work. If you think you can make your costume without any direct copying, just using the concept of leaves on a coloured background, I would go ahead. I have no idea how active Matisse's estate (Les Heritiers Matisse) are in policing copies of his work these days - there was a court case involving a UK publisher of art books in the 1990s - but I don't really think your costume is likely to come to their attention. I'm not that familiar with his 'cut-outs' but a quick look on Google suggests that it would be straightforward to create something quite different to his leaf paintings (if that is the right name for them) which still meets your requirements of being huge yet simple.

As for French copyright law, the main feature is that it is very artist-centric as its name in French suggests: le droit d'auteur. That said the way it works in France is largely the same as in the UK, with the exception of an author's or artist's moral rights which are perpetual and fairly wide ranging in their scope. However that shouldn't be a problem for you because I really don't think you need to worry about just being inspired by his ideas, but not actually copying any of his specific works.

Posted: Fri May 05, 2017 7:28 am
by MrsTwosheds
Hi Andy

Thank you so much for your speedy (and excellent) reply. I was rather confused about where to draw the line between 'inspiration' and copyright infringement, but now it becomes clear. I will start designing random blobs forthwith and the job should be done in no time!

Thank you again, as always, for your knowledgeable and helpful responses and just for being there for us all!