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I want to do a lot of master studies, but I am pretty ignorant about great illustrators/images. Also, I don't know if there are websites with good quality hi-res images that people tend to visit.
I seriously began applying myself fairly recently, about a year ago, and my education background was in the engineering/sciences, so my art history-type knowledge is lacking.
I know about some artists, like Pyle, Sargent, Wyeth(?), but I don't know which images are more "iconic" or if there's just a some general resources more experienced artists tend to know about vs newbies like myself.
ps. i know google images is there, and I've begun mining it, but a lot of the images are hit or miss.. lots of low quality images :c
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First off before I answer you, I want to mention that Sargent was NOT a Golden Age illustrator. He was a fantastic painter (arguably one of the greatest of all time, certainly many people in recent years are beginning to think this), but was a portrait artist and predated the Golden Age illustrators. If you like Sargent also check out Sorolla (AWESOME), Boldini (pretty great), William Merritt Chase (good), and Zorn (AWESOME)--they were his contemporaries who worked in similar styles.
Second thing that if you are not already doing you will want to do...when you do a google image search, go under Search Tools>Size>(whatever size resolution you want). This will only display images of that size, and is great for getting hi-res images that normally wouldn't really show up on a regular image search.
Since you seem a bit lost on the whole "artists you should know" and general art history I will try to keep this broad. If you want to learn about things wikipedia is a great starting point as it will have links on each page to other similar artists and often will have very high resolution images with artists (on most artist pages there is a link to Wikimedia Commons related images or something that will bring you to a page full of art, some of it is super low res, but sometimes there are some really hi-res images there).
Some names that you will want to familiarize yourself with for old masters...just check out this page http://www.artrenewal.org/articles/M...ar_Artists.php
ArtRenewal is/was a great resource for hi-res images. I say "was" because now you need to pay to be a member to see a good deal of the hi-res images (used to be free), and since they've changed this I think they have lost a lot of traffic...I know I visit the site far less often than I used to. That being said, their collection is good, so it is probably worth buying a membership, I just haven't gotten around to it.
Another great resource is this: http://www.the-athenaeum.org/ I always forget how to say/spell it haha, and have to do a few tries in google before it comes up. I haven't explored the site much to be honest, but there is a good selection and even if not all images are great resolution they will introduce you to more things.
A few art museums have hi-res images available for viewing on their site...it's been a while since I've gone through them so forget what has what, but I do remember off the top of my head that the Museo del Prado has some SUUUUPER hi-res stuff, some great Van Dyke, Velazquez etc. You will need to do a bit of digging to find all the stuff, but it is worth it. Other museums have online galleries too, but often low res, every now and then you find one that posts proper images though and will waste a few hours saving it to your computer haha!
Okay, on to Golden Age Illustrators and hi res stuff in general. What I am about to tell you is the single greatest secret to hi-res art and Golden Age illustrators... as far as I know I am one of the only people who do this... GO TO AUCTION SITES, MAKE AN ACCOUNT AND THEN YOU CAN BROWSE THE HI-RES IMAGE SIN THE ARCHIVES. It is time consuming to do, but the images there are higher resolution than I have ever seen elsewhere. You just need to find when there is a sale on Golden Age Illustration, or 19th Century European art, then you will have a field day. Since people will be spending big bucks on these paintings and may not be able to see it in real life first, the images online posted are like at least 4000 pixels per side. The only downsides is it is slow to save to your computer as you have to do each one manually, and also the artists represented are usually the slightly less known ones since their paintings will change hands more often than the super famous dudes. So for Golden Age guys there are only a handful of Wyeth's, Leyendecker's, Elvgren's and Rockwell's. But there are a ton of Dean Cornwell's, Tom Lovell's, Haddon Sundblom's etc, even a few slightly more recent guys, I have seen a few Donato Giancola's, James Gurney's, tons of John Berkey's, a couple Frazetta's etc.
If you are interested in learning about more contemporary illustration, buy all the Spectrum annuals you can. There are 19 of them out right now, and they are all great. You will probably want to buy the newest ones first, as the earlier ones are thinner and the artwork feels a bit dated/you will probably not appreciate them as much if you don't know a lot of the artists already. But yeah, Spectrum is probably the best art book you can buy for the cost it is. They are SO cheap for how great the printing is, how much art there is in them, and just the overall quality.
CGHub is also great for viewing stuff online, but it is heavily biased towards digital art, concept art, and also includes lots of 3d.
For contemporary fine artists take a look at various shows and organizations (like Masters of the American West, Portrait Society of America etc). ArtRenewal has galleries of "living masters" as they call them, and also holds a big competition yearly called their Salon. It's worth looking through, though I find many of the entries overworked/overly tight for my taste. I also follow like 150 art blogs or something, so tend to see a lot of stuff that other people post/talk about.
There is more I can tell you probably, but I don't want to overwhelm you right now...already I am throwing a ton of stuff at you. All of this should be a good start, remember that you shouldn't expect to be completely spoonfed this stuff. If you are truly interested you will have no trouble doing a bit of work/research of your own, so I'm kind of expecting you to do that. If you do that it is A) more fulfilling/educational, and B) will allow you to find things others may not come across. Give a man a fish, teach a man to fish blah blah, go have fun researching and learning!
"Complacency is the womb of mediocrity. " -- Jason Manley
"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." -- Bruce Lee
Helluva thorough answer Andrew! Bravo man! I would pick up a copy of Walt Reed's "Illustrator in America"...or any of the other decent enyclopedia type books on golden age illustrators. For one thing you'll discover folks no one knows about and therefore aren't on the web, plus you can read the short bios and get a sense of the individuals and their interconnections. That is how you start to build your knowledge base - just looking at images on the web teaches one very, very little. Also, having a hardcopy book you can carry around, chill out with and read in quiet moments is a much richer experience than being a scanner plugged in to the machine.