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Important notice: Until further notice, we are not accepting copyist requests. Learn more about the Museum’s response to COVID-19.

Museum visitors are welcome to sketch in the permanent collection galleries using dry media without easels any time during regular open hours; sketching is not allowed in the Main Exhibition Galleries; sketchers should ask staff to direct them to portable stools for use in the galleries.

Painters and copyists using easels and/or working in wet media, sculptors working in water-soluble clay or polymer clay, etc., require prior approval using the the Copyist Application Form below. Once approved, copyists may set up and work 10 am to 4:30 pm Tuesday through Sunday and 10 am to 8:30 pm on Fridays, under the conditions outlined below.

A. Permission

  1. Interested copyists should complete the Copyist Application Form and secure the approvals required from the Learning & Engagement Department at least two weeks before the desired start date. The form is below and can be emailed to Call 314.655.5265 or email to request a printed form by mail.
  2. General permission will be effective for up to six weeks starting on the date indicated on the application. Permission to copy may be renewed in six-week increments by re-submitting the form to or by calling 314.655.5265 so your permission can be extended.
  3. Permission to copy on specific dates in specific galleries within that six-week permission period is not guaranteed on every date due to scheduled Museum programs. Any changes from galleries listed on your form must be confirmed by telephone (314.655.5265) no later than the day before, ensuring that the copyist will not interfere with scheduled Museum programs.
  4. Permission will be contingent on approval of Learning & Engagement and on observation of all rules outlined in these guidelines. The copyist’s failure to observe any of these rules may result in permanent revocation of permission to copy.

B. Conditions

  1. The copyist’s canvas or projected size of finished sculpture must vary from the size of the original work by at least 10% in each dimension, and may not exceed 34 x 34.
  2. The copyist must furnish a sturdy dust-free canvas or plastic dropcloth of sufficient size to cover the entire work area (stool, easel, supplies) and extending two feet beyond in every direction.
  3. The copyist must furnish, and bring for each use, a professional and stable easel (for painting) or a sculpting stand/pedestal stable enough to present no danger of tipping over (for sculpting). The copyist’s easel or pedestal must be seen and approved by the Museum’s Registrar before the start date.
  4. The copyist must work no closer than five feet from the original, and may not approach the original more closely than five feet with paintbrush or other artist’s materials in hand.
  5. Media allowed in uncarpeted galleries include:  oil, watercolor, and acrylic, as well as pencil, charcoal, oil pastel, felt tip, ballpoint, conte crayon, pastels, fabric and textiles, polymer clay and water-soluble clay. Copyists must bring their own water supply in a closed container and carry used water out of the building in a closed container.
  6. Media allowed in carpeted galleries include all media identified above except wet media (oils, watercolor, acrylic, water-soluble clay).
  7. Materials prohibited in the galleries include: ink (except ballpoint), fountain pens, fixatives, and sprays of any type.
  8. No materials may be stored at the Museum. All wet materials (brushes, palettes, or clay) must be wrapped in plastic before being removed from the work site.
  9. Copyists may not hinder normal traffic flow while working in the galleries, and for this reason may not work in doorways or within the normal traffic-flow pattern of doorways. Copyists may be prohibited from working in very small galleries for the same reason.
  10. Odorless brush solvents should be in closed containers at all times; rags, paper towels, and trash must be kept in closed bags or containers. Approved brush solvents include (as of February 2006) Turpenoid, Turpenoid Natural, and “mineral spirits”; when in doubt, call the Learning & Engagement Department at 314.655.5265.
  11. Only works in the Museum’s permanent collection may be copied. Saint Louis Art Museum accession numbers appear on the label next to the work, with the year as the number following the colon (example: 78:1967).  If the label refers to a loan from another institution or individual, or if the year is the first number cited (indicating a loan, for example 1999:23), the work may not be copied.
  12. Occasionally during the approved period, Museum programs (tours, classes, etc.) may need to claim the gallery for brief periods; while Museum staff will make every effort to respect the copyist’s needs, Museum programs must take precedence in such a situation. In such situations, the copyist will be notified in advance if possible, and the approval period will be extended as necessary to accommodate those days.
  13. The Museum recognizes that the artist’s presence in the galleries will attract attention. The Saint Louis Art Museum hopes that if curious visitors stop to inquire what the artist is doing, or to watch him/her at work, she/he will welcome their interest.  We welcome copyists as an educational, observational opportunity for our visitors and expect copyists to work in that spirit.

C. Procedures

  1. After receiving confirmation of permission to copy, the copyist should call the Learning & Engagement Department (314.655.5265) during regular office hours no later than the day before the copyist intends to start work in the galleries. Specific time and place permission will be granted and recorded on the office copy of the permission form if the gallery is not claimed for other Museum programs.
  2. In order to have supplies checked, copyists should enter the Museum at the appointed time to be met by Learning & Engagement and Registration staff to confirm set up and supplies conform to the guidelines. After set up and supplies are approved, the signed Copyist Application Form will be returned to the copyist and the form will need to be visibly displayed each time they come to copy.
  3. If a copyist has not scheduled a session beforehand, the Museum cannot guarantee access to the galleries.
  4. The copyist will not be admitted into the galleries without a signed Copyist Application Form.
  5. The copyist will set up their drop cloth, easel, and materials and is free to work in the gallery as long as the specific permission for that day permits. Museum stools are available; check with the Information Centers for location. In all cases, the copyist must be packed up and on the way out of the galleries by a half-hour before galleries close to the public (thus, by 4:30 pm or 8:30 pm on Fridays).
  6. Copyists should plan not to leave their projects unattended at any time during their work period. For emergency restroom or supply-gathering breaks, copyists may ask a Gallery Attendant already in the gallery to watch their set-up for no more than 5 minutes.
  7. Copyists can expect periodic checking by Museum Security, as well as viewings and comments by Museum visitors: no protective stanchions will be erected to create a “private” workspace.  Aside from checks by Security, copyists abiding by the conditions listed here can expect to be left alone by Museum staff; neither staff nor docents or other volunteers will invite visitors to approach them. Occasionally a docent may bring a tour group through the gallery and may stop to discuss other works in that gallery, but these intrusions would be brief and the docents will not focus specifically on the copyist’s work.
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