May 27, 2021 | Alyson Stanfield

Secrets from Copying a Masterpiece with Lilianne Milgrom

The subject line in my inbox said Podcast Pitch. Oh no, another one of these, I thought.

But this had an addition. It included a reference to one of my clients after the words Podcast Pitch. One of my favorite clients. This one I have to pay attention to.

©Lilianne Milgrom, Break of Dawn. Acrylic on canvas, 30 x 40 inches.

The podcast pitch in question came from Lilianne Milgrom, who had just finished writing a book. (Again, the thought of “oh no” entered my head. Another artist-turned-author.) You can see that I was skeptical, but her pitch was perfect. I get tons of podcast pitches, but none have been better than hers. It was right on target.

I gave her book a go and, truthfully, couldn't put it down. I looked forward to reading it every night. I didn't want to finish. It was that good.

It contained art history, intrigue, sex, and scandal. How could it not be fascinating?

⚠️ WARNING: This post and interview contain art (and what some might see as imagery and conversations for adults only)

My conversation with Lilianne in this episode of the Art Biz Podcast isn't only about the book. It's the story of how the book came to be—which is a lesson in itself—and has its roots in her decision to be a copyist at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, copying Gustave Courbet's scandalous painting, L'Origine du Monde (The Origin of the World). She learned valuable lessons by copying a masterpiece, exercised her courage muscle, and became a better artist as a result. The experience led to the writing of the book that so engrossed me.

Lilianne and I talk about all of that and how she juggles her art and writing. She also shares tips for pitching to podcasts, which are equally valuable for other media pitches.

Music by Wildermiss

Highlights of Copying a Masterpiece

  • Lilianne shares the timeline of her artist journey. (3:22)
  • The difference between a consistent studio practice and making consistent work. (5:56)
  • The premise and genesis of Lilianne’s book L'Origine. (9:15)
  • A full list of Lilianne’s reasons not to become a copyist of this scandalous painting. (13:08)
  • The fascinating rules for copying a masterpiece at the Musée d’Orsay. (16:36)
  • Overcoming the most uncomfortable aspects of this endeavor, including the unsolicited comments from museum visitors. (20:21)
  • Differing male and female reactions to the painting. (25:43)
  • The inspiration that comes from writing about your painting. (26:55)
  • Turning a once-in-a-lifetime artist experience—and the painting it centers on — into a novel. (29:40)
  • What makes a piece of art timeless and relevant? (35:13)
  • If this artwork is shocking today, imagine how it was received in the 1800s. (40:20)
  • Lilianne explains why her copy of L'Origine du Monde is not currently on display. (42:12)
  • Lessons learned from interacting with such a famous and controversial artwork.  (43:38)
  • What does Lilianne’s studio practice look like now? (46:43)
  • The secret to pitching your idea in a way that gets results. (48:10)

L'Origine c'est moi installation by artist Lilianne Milgrom on Art Biz Success
Lilianne Milgrom's copy of L'Origine du Monde within her installation L'Origine c'est moi (I am the Origin). Mixed media, painting, and photography, varying dimensions. ©2013 Lilianne Milgrom.

ResourcesL'Origine by Lillian Milgrom | book cover

Lilianne Milgrom Quotes

“Writing is like painting with words.”

“This painting gave me the sense of empowerment, which at the beginning felt like an embarrassment, and it turned out to be this enormous feeling of liberation and empowerment.”

“This certainly changed my life. As far as my art, it's made me fairly fearless.”

“The written word and art, they can’t be separated because you’re going to need to express yourself.”

About My Guest

Lilianne Milgrom was born in Paris, grew up in Australia, and currently resides in the United States. Milgrom holds two degrees from Melbourne University and an associate art degree from the Academy of Art in San Francisco. She exhibits her artwork around the world and is the recipient of multiple awards.

In 2011, Lilianne became the first authorized copyist of Gustave Courbet's controversial painting L'Origine du Monde (The Origin of the World), which hangs in the Orsay Museum in Paris and draws over a million visitors a year. After rendering a near-identical copy of Courbet's masterpiece, she spent close to a decade researching and writing L'Origine.

Find Lilianne on Instagram: @liliannemilgrom

Music by Wildermiss

4 comments add a comment
  • Thank you Alyson for this wonderful podcast! I loved every minute of it. How inspiring to hear Lilianne’s experience of painting at the Musée d’Orsay, and to paint l’Origine de Monde in particular. Can’t wait to read the book. Thanks Lilianne in advance for a great read.
    -Simonne

  • I finally finished listening. Great podcast! Lilianne’s concept, approach, and her thoughts about her “L’origine du Monde” project were so inspiring. I remember seeing this painting at the Museé d’Orsay years ago. It’s wonderful to know more of the history. I’m definitely going to read the book!

  • What a fascinating and wonderful podcast. Looking forwrd to reading the book! Thank you Lilianne and Alyson!

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