All arts, it maybe presumed, developed by patronage from heads and leaders of societies or kings of countries. It was obviously performed for the pleasure of the patron in principle but in practice it must have been accessible for commoners too. Many of the artists depended on their patrons for their material well being or even survival, excepting those who were born to good fortune. How far were their artistic aims and quality influenced by the patrons? How many of the artists flourished without having to please their patrons by their art? Some of the greatest artists have used their talent to portray their patrons in favourable light. Poets in ancient Tamil kingdoms, and probably in other kingdoms too, had the practice of heaping praises of their kings and their achievements. Shakespeare depended on patronage by nobility and royalty and his famed sonnet 72 is believed to be in praise of a patron.
In the present times where do the artists get their support from? Artistic variety and production has grown exponentially now compared to medieval times. People of wealth, business and state organisations are the main patrons of artists. The most economically secured artists are the ones whose works have high commercial value. When there is a change in the board of directors of a company or change of govt. some of the artists’ good times take a nose dive and some others’ soar. The great Milton too had too experienced such oblivion when his patron the King of England was replaced.
And some of the greatest artists of the world have lived apparently without patronage and and died in poverty. Keats, who became famous only after his death… Spencer, one of the pioneers of English poetry. It is fortunate that their names have become immortal in the world of literature but how many great artistic creations were made that were lost without ever seeing the light of the day for want of patrons and supporters is left to imagination. Today we can see every government has its preferred band of writers, poets etc. Some writers who set out as very anti-establishment and revolutionary later sell their talent to further the name and influence of the establishment and its kingpins. Some who are haplessly dependent on a socialist state system open to manipulation experience something akin to a mild Stockholm syndrome. They begin to imagine those who want to control them and stunt their free growth as their great protectors and try to strengthen them by their arts as it was in Soviet and in China now.
Amazingly some truly great artists never bothered to leave their names for posterity as many paintings such as in Ajanta, Ellora etc and probably all temple sculptures in India stand testimony to. The ideal society should provide all necessary material and moral support for genuine artists irrespective of whether their work has commercial appeal or is not sub serving those holding the reigns of prevailing governing system.