6 min readMay 12, 2021

Authenticity in art is the authenticity of a transfer, the authenticity of a sample. In some cases, it is used to determine the originality of a work and is opposed to the notion of plagiarism. In literature, it means the author’s texts without editing and editorial changes. Often the concept is applied to diaries, personal correspondence, manuscripts, etc. of specific authors. In painting — the author’s style, a special technique or presentation. In music, a particular manner of performance, the use of certain instruments.

Authenticity is attributed to folk art in the case where this art comes from a bearer of a particular culture. The characteristic of authenticity can also be attributed to art that accurately reproduces folklore patterns. For example, the performance of music on folk instruments, the use of traditional methods of creating colors and other materials for painting and painting in arts and crafts, the preservation of the original phonetics in folk songs.

In contemporary art the concept of authenticity is more often applied to the author’s style, author’s technique, and original idea. Often the authenticity can be attributed not only to the original work, but also to its copies. This approach is particularly characteristic of easily reproduced contemporary art forms, where a copy is indistinguishable from the original. In such cases, authenticity does not refer to the authenticity of the specimen, but to the originality of the idea behind the artwork.

Authenticity in performance is the complete or partial copying of the performance style of a piece of music of the time when it was written. For example, the performer plays a piece written in the 18th century, but performs it in the 21st century, the style of playing has changed over the years, and to convey the atmosphere, the performer uses the techniques of playing a particular instrument that were used at the time when the piece was written.

The formation of the arts and the practical fixation of their kinds took place in an era very different from our own, and was carried out by people whose power over things was insignificant in comparison with that which we possess. However, the amazing growth of our technical capabilities, the flexibility and precision acquired by them allow us to assert that in the near future the ancient industry of beauty will undergo profound changes. In all the arts there is a physical part that can no longer be considered and used as it once was; it can no longer be outside the influence of modern theoretical and practical activity. One has to be prepared for the fact that such significant innovations will transform the entire technique of art, thereby influencing the very process of creation and perhaps even miraculously changing the very notion of art.

When Marx began his analysis of the capitalist mode of production, this mode of production was in its infancy. Marx organized his work in such a way that it took on a prognostic value. He turned to the basic conditions of capitalist production and presented them in such a way that it was possible to see what capitalism would be capable of doing in the future. It turned out that not only would it produce more and more severe exploitation of the proletarians, but that in the end it would create conditions through which its own liquidation would be possible.

The transformation of the superstructure is much slower than the transformation of the basis, which is why it took more than half a century for the changes in the structure of production to be reflected in all fields of culture. It is only now that we can judge how this took place. This analysis must meet certain foresight requirements. But it is not so much the theses about what proletarian art will be like after the proletariat has come to power, let alone a classless society, as the provisions concerning the tendencies of artistic development in the conditions of existing production relations. Their dialectics appear as clearly in the superstructure as they do in the economy. It would therefore be a mistake to underestimate the significance of these theses for the political struggle.

The work of art has in principle always been reproducible. What was created by men could always be copied by others. Apprentices did this in order to improve their skills, masters did it in order to make their work more widely available and third parties copied it for a profit. Compared to these activities, the technical reproduction of a work of art is a new phenomenon which, even if not continuously, but at large intervals separated by long spurts of time, is becoming more and more important historically. The Greeks knew only two ways of technically reproducing works of art: casting and stamping. Bronze statues, terracotta figurines, and coins were the only works of art they could replicate. All others were unique and could not be technically reproduced. With the advent of woodcuts, graphics became technically reproducible for the first time; it took quite a long time before the advent of book printing made the same possible for texts. The tremendous changes that printing, that is, the technical possibility of reproducing text, has caused in literature are known. They constitute, however, only one particular, though particularly important, case of the phenomenon which is here considered on a world-historical scale. Woodcuts were joined during the Middle Ages by copperplate engraving and etching, and early in the nineteenth century by lithography.

With the advent of lithography, reproduction techniques rose to a fundamentally new level. The much simpler method of translating a drawing on stone, which distinguishes lithography from carving an image on wood or etching it on a metal plate, gave graphic art for the first time the ability to reach the market not only in fairly large print runs (as before), but also by varying the image daily. Thanks to lithography, graphics was able to become an illustrative companion to everyday events. It began to keep up with typographic techniques. In this respect, lithography was overtaken by photography a few decades later. Photography for the first time freed the hand in the process of artistic reproduction from its most important creative duties, which had now been taken over by the eye looking into the lens. Because the eye grasps faster than the hand does, the process of reproduction got such a powerful acceleration that it could keep up with oral speech. The cinematographer captures events during filming in the studio at the same speed as the actor speaks. If lithography carried the potential of an illustrated newspaper, the advent of photography meant the possibility of sound cinema. The task of technical sound reproduction began at the end of the last century. These converging efforts predicted a situation that Valéry described with the phrase: “Just as water, gas, and electricity, obeying an almost imperceptible movement of the hand, come from afar to serve us, so visual and sound images will be delivered to us, appearing and disappearing at the command of a slight movement, almost like a sign. At the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the means of technical reproduction reached a level at which they not only began to turn the whole of the available works of art into their object and seriously change their effect on the public, but also took an independent place among the types of artistic activity. There is nothing more fruitful for the study of the level reached than an analysis of how the two phenomena characteristic of it — art reproduction and film art — have a reverse effect on art in its traditional form.


Walter Bendix Schönflies Benjamin (1892), a German Jewish philosopher, cultural critic and essayist. An eclectic thinker, combining elements of German idealism, Romanticism, Western Marxism, and Jewish mysticism, Benjamin made enduring and influential contributions to aesthetic theory, literary criticism, and historical materialism.