Speaking of contemporary freedom, I'll never forget what's-his-name who was a visiting printmaker from the Netherlands. He carried around with him a small plate which he worked on constantly: very, very intricate tight etching of a lace-like, geometric design.
He told us, almost despairingly, that "You Americans have such freedom!" In his world, artists always had the Great Masters looking over their shoulders.
He was kind of gloomy.
I was just speaking to a fellow artist the other day about something similar. I suggested that there was a certain freedom to working in pastel... as there were only two real towering masters of the media: Degas and Redon. Yes... there are other very good pastel artists... but either they didn't (don't) work extensively in pastel (Boucher, Chardin, Kitaj, Manet, etc...) or they simply don't blow me away. Such a lack of predecessors has its pluses and minuses. On the positive side, it allows for a certain freedom.
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty—that is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know." - John Keats
"Modern art is what happens when painters stop looking at girls and persuade themselves that they have a better idea."- John Ciardi