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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Classical (Classic) Realism- Part 1

A three-part series that highlights the origins and resurgence of Classic Realism and its importance to the 21st century artist.

It was in college that I decided to become an artist. How to achieve that goal, well, I assumed the college knew. In my ignorance, I knew very little about what it took to become an artist, nor did I even know what questions to ask. 

The 1960's did not give a young student many options, so I took the logical, affordable one. For me, growing as an artist followed the path of trial and error with some influential and valuable guidance along the way. Mainly, however, I feel I am mostly self-taught. At one point in my career, I probably considered that a badge of honor, but not anymore. Now I consider it a shame and a powerful condemnation of the sad state of art education during my formative years.

Today, with the rise of so many great educational opportunities for artists, from workshops to ateliers, things are much different. Tastes in art are changing. Hopeful students are looking for something more than the self-indulgent painting of the modernist era...those works preferred and promoted by art critics and museums for almost 100 years.

There are now art schools around the world, many in this country, that are intent on researching and restoring the teaching methods of old that produced the world's greatest artists.

We really owe a great deal of gratitude to those who are dedicating themselves to teaching these traditional methods, for we're already seeing the phenomenal results of such training among many of our younger artists.

I am so excited to bring you this 3-part interview with three of the best, all recognized living masters who have dedicated themselves to training the next generation of artists. It should be noted that my timing proved to be the worst as they were contacted just as Fall classes were about to begin. For some, my request was too much to deal with...and I totally understand. But for these three...well, what can I say but...Thank You.

In the interview that follows, my hope is that we gain a deeper understanding of what some are calling "Classical Realism". What is it and what are it's roots? What distinguishes classical training from other types of art instruction, and why is it important?
I think you will find this three-part interview very enlightening.

Michael John Angel
Michael John Angel - Lamberto ( Study) - 11.75"x 13.75" - Mixed media 

Michael John Angel was born in England but emigrated to Canada during his teen years. Searching for a teacher that would give him the training he craved, in the late 1960's he found what he was looking for in Florence, Italy. Now recognized as one of the foremost traditional painters in North America, he is founder and director of Angel Academies of Art in both Canada and Italy. He has dedicated himself to not only passing on his love for classical and traditional art, but also to instilling the disciplines that lead to successful mastery of the necessary techniques.

Juliette Aristides
Juliette Aristides - Family - 24"x 18" - Charcoal and sepia on toned paper 

Juliette Aristides is the founding instructor of the Aristides Atelier at Gage Academy in Seattle, WA. and also Aristides Atelier, an on-line teaching website. A prolific writer, she has authored three books: "The Classical Drawing Atelier", "The Classical Painting Atelier", and "Lessons in Classical Drawing". She believes that the goal of learning to draw and paint is attainable by anyone who is willing to pursue it. It is as accessible as learning to write or play a musical instrument. She has dedicated herself to helping others attain that goal.

David Hardy

David Hardy - Carla (Study) - 25"x 19" - Charcoal and chalk 

David Hardy began his studies with Dallas artist, Ramon Froman, at the age of nineteen. Later he continued his studies at the American Academy of Fine Art in Chicago and the Art Students League in New York. The Atelier School of Classical Realism in the San Francisco Bay area, which David founded, focuses its attention on the marvelous range of technical artistic knowledge, understanding and observation of nature that helped make possible the impressive accomplishments of the masters of realism.

David Hardy - Guy in White Shirt - 20"x 28" - Oil

Michael John Angel beside his painting Capriccio - 118"x 177" - Oil 

Juliette Aristides - Silver Teapot - 16"x 22.5" - Oil

"Classically trained" and "classical realism" are terms often bandied about by fine artists today. What exactly is meant by those terms?

Aristides: Classical Realism was a term coined by Richard Lack. On the surface it looks like a contradiction of terms. Realism often refers to an unfiltered view of everyday life. Classism works within a tradition striving for an ideal between nature and design. I imagine the term Classical Realism reflects the striving of an artist to see and express the ideal in life. I love this definition of classism from an unlikely source, the Romantic artist, Eugene Delacroix: "I would readily apply the term "classical" to all well-ordered works which satisfy the mind, not only by an accurate, noble, or lively rendering of sentiments and objects, but also by their unity and logical arrangements. In short, by all those qualities which enhance the impression by creating a final simplicity."

Hardy: The terms "Classically trained" and "Classical Realism" vary in meaning in the art community because there is a wide range of understanding and cultural sophistication amongst some of those using these terms. I choose to name my atelier the Atelier School of Classical Realism for two reasons: (1) Atelier because I have adapted some of the teaching approaches and concepts popular in Paris in the 19th century. Atelier (French for 'studio') studies brought a limited (small) group of students together to learn from a respected master. (2) I firmly believe, with but a few later exceptions, that the major Baroque artists brought realism to a level rarely touched since. Because of this, I have made the effort to become very involved with Baroque technology. When I think of classical realism, I think of Old Master baroque artists, such as Rembrandt, Vermeer, Hals, Reubens, Van Dyke, Carravagio and Velasquez.

Angel: I hate to start off by being pedantic, but "Classical Realism" is actually a misnomer: the adjective Classical specifically refers to things from the Classical period in Greece  (c.480 to 323 BC), and classical (lower-case C) refers more generally to things to do with Greece and ancient Rome. Classic Realism is better, or Traditional Realism. A classic shoe is just that, whereas a classical shoe is a sandal. The only classical painting that we have is vase painting. Realism is a difficult word, too, implying as it does things that we see in reality, i.e. everyday genre painting. This would exclude all symbolic allegory, including mythology, Christian or pagan. It also tends to exclude Conceptualism, but more about this later. I prefer Representational Painting (or Sculpture, of course), but it's something of a mouthful. (Another much misused word is figurative. It actually means representational: a still life or a landscape are figurative, as are figural works such as nudes and portraits.) Sorry to go on, but you did ask!!

Michael John Angel - Grisaille/Nude #24 - 16"x 12" - Oil 

David Hardy - Calla Lily Duo - 8"x 12" - Oil

Juliette Aristides - Jeremy - 14"x 11" - Oil

What characteristics are synonymous among all things classical?

Aristides: It was said very well by the artist and author Kenyon Cox, in his book The Classic point of view (1911): "The Classic Spirit is the disinterested search for perfection; it is the love of clearness and reasonableness and self-control; it is, above all, the love of permanence and of continuity. It asks of a work of art, not that it shall be novel or effective, but that it shall be fine and noble. It seeks not merely to express individuality or emotion but to express disciplined emotion and individuality restrained by law. It strives for the essential rather  than the accidental, the eternal rather than the momentary - loves impersonality more than personality, and feels more power in the orderly succession of the hours and the seasons than in the violence of earthquake or of storm."

Hardy: When I think of classical things, I think of search for truth, search for the ultimate in ideals, plus clarity and accessibility.

Why do we credit and accept the Greeks as establishing the canons of beauty?

Aristides: Greek art, in the Classical period, reached a remarkable balance between adherence to proportional cannons and naturalism. The Greeks moved away from static proportional systems, identifying and formalizing the attributes of beauty from nature. When looking at images from an art history timeline, you can see the Greeks so surpassed their predecessors in sophistication that the culture almost appears to spring up out of thin air.

Hardy: Because they were there "firstest with the mostest".

Why the fascination with ancient Greece and Rome?

Aristides: In his book Civilization, Kenneth Clark wrote that "Western Europe had inherited an ideal invented in Greece in the 5th century B.C which was so satisfying to the mind and eye that it lasted practically unchanged for over six-hundred years". During my travels this summer it is easy to see its powerful influence in America - in old city Philadelphia. It not only affected Europe, but when the New World was being shaped our founding fathers looked all the way back to Greco-Roman times, not only as a model for democracy, but also to their arts and architecture. It was the high point in philosophy, art, architecture, civic life, mathematics, etc and became the basis for Western Culture. The ancient Greeks were seeking after permanence and a perfect balance of reason, beauty and justice. They were trying to create a model civilization, not just copying what came before them...but innovating. Perhaps we are drawn to the best of those ideals.

Hardy: Because most of the ideals and structure of western society today were fermented and given birth in ancient Greece and Rome.

Juliette Aristides - Ember - 16"x 22" - Oil

Michael John Angel - Anna (Study) - 4.72"x 3.94" - Oil

David Hardy - Lotus Mum and Lace - 10"x 15" - Oil

Is the fascination with Greek and Roman antiquity concerned mainly with appearances or does it also extend to the philosophies of that time?

Hardy: The almost exclusive survival of Greek art has been their statues. Greek statuary was an expression of their belief that all of their pantheon of gods existed as super perfect versions of humans...more handsome or beautiful, perfectly proportioned, more graceful.

Aristides: Today, I don't know that many artists are actually influenced by classical art, and architecture in the strict meaning of the word. Rather, I think there is a desire to understand artistic systems from the past so we can create the best art possible for the times in which we live. I think we are in such a disposable culture, the desire to make something that lasts, that attempts permanence, is compelling. We look back and are inspired to try a little harder.

Mr. Angel has combined these last four questions into the following response:

Angel: The sculpture of ancient Greece and Rome transcends everyday reality. We feel as though we are looking through the specific - the model, the subject - into the eternal, and this is why it haunts us. How do they accomplish this? All representational art should be a combination of the empirical and the conceptual. Modern ateliers teach the basic geometrical forms - at Angel's, we teach that there are four pure ones: the cylinder, the egg, the block, and the pyramid, plus the various hybrids between these - and how to render these, illusionistically, on a two-dimensional surface. The ancients stressed these pure forms, modifying them empirically just enough to conjure the appearance of a human, but they leave us with the sense of the Eternal, the perennial flux. They combined this with a profound grasp of gesture, itself a conceptual thing, and of grace, which they created by the use of flow-through lines, rhyming forms and proportion. A great deal of our modern Realism deals only with the empirical, thinking that this is what the masters did; however, if I were to show you a reproduction of a Caravaggio (or a Ribera, or a van Dyck...) and tell you that this is a photo of some models posing, you wouldn't believe me for a minute. Caravaggio, with or without mirror projections, has changed something; he has conceptualized (simplified and purified) the forms to make them more powerful and, ironically enough, more convincing.

To be continued, Part 2 next week...

For more on these important artists:
David Hardy
Atelier School of Classical Realism

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Prayer 2012

Govert-Teunisz Flinck - Angels Announcing the Birth of Christ to the Shepherds  63"x 77" - 1639

May the peace of God

that surpasses all comprehension
guard your hearts and minds
in Christ Jesus, 
this Christmas and forever


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Does realism matter?

"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away."   
Philip K. Dick

In a recent blog Realism in the Visual Arts I reviewed the history of the Realism Movement and also noted the responses of Facebook friends to the question, "How would you define realism, as it relates to art?" As expected, there were some very insightful answers.
But the question now is, "Does realism or realist art even matter?" Kara Lysandra Ross, Director of Operations for the Art Renewal Center, believes it does.

Claude Monet - "Impression Sunrise" - 1872 
(Impressionism applied contemporary developments in color theory. In an effort to effectively capture atmosphere, painting en plein air characterized the movement. The movement was also noted for its short dashes and dots of enriched color and a reduction of line and detail)

In a recent speech before the International Guild of Realism in which she was the guest judge of their annual show, she stated very clearly and expertly the importance of art in society...and the importance of realist art in particular. She believes most people view art as a luxury, something nice to decorate one's home, but they don't really recognize its true worth. In truth, she says, art lies at the core of human existence, and it has the power to not only communicate but also to shape one's beliefs and as a result, societies. That's why many governments view the arts as something that needs to be controlled.
"Nothing says more about a culture than the art it idolizes. It represents what it values, what it thinks about, and essentially what it deems worth remembering. Art is the representation of a people, encapsulating its essence on every level. By attacking the art of a culture, you attack the culture itself."

Paul Cezanne - Bibemus Quarry - 1895
(Post-Impressionism was a rebellion against what were believed to be the limitations of Impressionism. This movement focused on the emotional, structural, symbolic and spiritual elements they felt were missing from the former movement)

Ernest Ludwig Kirchner - Davos Under Snow - 1923
(Expressionism was defined by vivid, jarring, dynamic, symbolic color, and exaggerated lines. Subjective feelings were emphasized over objective observation. Artists sought a highly emotional effect through exaggerated imagery, resulting in a distorted reality)

The Facebook respondents are in agreement that realism is a truthful, objective representation of the real world. It captures the true effects of light and volume of those things we see, know, experience, relate to, and understand in real life. Therefore, true realism cannot merely be a painting technique that renders superficial detail.

Henri Matisse - The Roofs of Collioure - 1905
(Fauvism emphasized intensely exaggerated color as the artist sought to express his feelings about a subject. Because of this the Fauvists were nicknamed, "Les Fauves" (the wild beasts). The movement was also characterized by extremely simplified drawing)

Frederic Taubes in his book Modern Art - Sweet or Sour, explains the importance of realism this way. "Art is the expression of visual ideas. Art evokes thought that in turn generates emotions. For the artist, abstract thinking that does not find its matrix in the emotional is worthless; to the artist the world of abstract ideas offers no nourishment. Whatever lies outside the pale of his experience is for him of no consequence. Everything that materializes itself in the painter's mind concerns representation, and abstract art is truly a representation of Nothing. As always, disengagement from the optical must end up inexorably in the blind alley of Nothingness."

Marcel Duchamp - Fountain - 1917
(Dadaism was a irrational, nonsensical movement that rejected reason and logic, prized intuition and sought to mock classical and conventional artists and ideas)

Even Picasso agrees, "There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward you can remove all traces of reality."...and in my opinion, if you take all meaning out of art it's like taking all sound out of music.

Pablo Picasso - Still Life with Mandolin and Guitar - 1924
(Cubism challenged conventional forms of representation. It ignored the traditions of perspective drawing in an attempt to develop new ways of seeing. It believed the traditions of Western Art were exhausted and looked to other cultures for new ways of expression)

Now, back to Kara Ross' speech. "In an article recently published in the New English Review, titled The Tyranny of Artistic Modernism, Mark Anthony Signorelli writes, 'Nothing is so important to the spiritual and mental flourishing of a people as its art. The stories they tell, the buildings they inhabit, the public spaces in which they gather, the songs they sing, the fashioned images they gaze upon, these things shape their souls more permanently and effectively than anything else. We live in a time when the art all around us accustoms men to, and insinuates into their souls, the most erroneous and degrading ideas imaginable about themselves and their world. A humane society can hardly be expected to grow out of such an adverse cultural environment."

Frank Bramley - A Hopeless Dawn - 1888

In her closing remarks to the International Guild of Realism, Ross reminded artists that they play a most important role in our society. "For those who do believe in a higher power, is not the earth and the universe God's artistic creation? I hope you walk away from this with an extra level of appreciation for the work you do, inspired not to be discouraged when you encounter difficulties. You are shaping our nation and the world into a better place, where once again freedom of thought and real communication can be disseminated through a canvas. With your diligence and effort, a picture is once again worth a thousand words versus needing a thousand word to understand it."

Modern Art - Sweet or Sour - Frederic Taubes - Watson-Guptill Publication
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Sunday, December 9, 2012

Miniature paintings for Christmas

Miniature paintings are often called "small jewels". The appeal of them is that compressed into a very small area is the same emotion as found in a larger work. Small paintings also tend to be  more loosely, and therefore, more expressively painted. Importantly, they are  affordable to just about every budget, and they are still one-of-a-kind creations able to be placed in a greater variety of places in your home.

I am pleased to announce my participation in the 22nd Annual Holiday Miniatures Show, held at the Abend Gallery in Denver, Colorado. I suggest, for all of the above reasons, that you consider one of these beautifully framed pieces as a memorable, lasting gift for you and your family. (Click on the images to enlarge)
Hillside Church - 8"x 10" - Oil

The small country church to me is a symbol of all that made America great. It was the focal point of a community, a continual reminder of our daily dependence upon God...and what's really of God and of our neighbor. It represents stability, humility, faith, hope, charity, love, giving, sharing, peace...all things we all need a lot more of.
Mountain Road - 8"x 10" - Oil

What's around the next bend? That's a question often filled with a sense of anticipation...and it really doesn't matter where that next bend is. However, in Estes Park, CO, almost every bend in the mountains reveals a new vista, a new experience, a new "Wow" moment. It was one such moment when I came upon this scene and marveled at how beautifully God had carpeted this mountain with trees. I was with my artist friend, Jeff Legg, and at a such moments as these we would burst into song..."The hills are alive with the sound of music"...and on down the road we'd travel until around the next bend we would once again sing forth, rejoicing over the magnificence of it all.
MacGregor Ranch - 7.5"x 10.25" - Oil

Colorado is a magnificently beautiful state. Cecy Turner and I spent a day painting at the MacGregor Ranch. This is my painting from that extraordinary experience. If you're from the flat lands, as I am, seeing mountains is awe inspiring. This view of Twin Owls was one of those moments. Painting at high altitude and in bright sunlight can be a challenge. I did not fully realize the extent of the challenge until I brought my paintings home and viewed them in the studio. It was then I realized they were all too dark. So, as with the others, I also had to lighten this one somewhat in order to make it appear more natural.
Remnants of '57 - 8"x 10" - Oil

My Dad was a Ford man...well, at least in the 1950's he was. Only later did he own Chevy's. He liked cars and he took good care of them. I probably got my love for cars from him, and I've never outgrown it. I'm not any good at working on them but I love to drive them and I've always admired their styling. The '57 Ford was quite a departure from my Dad's '56, and I anxiously anticipated each autumn when the manufacturers would release their new models. Back then the cars had character, so much so, one could distinguish the make from a considerable distance. I kept a notebook recording how many of each model I saw. When traveling, my brother, sister, and I often occupied ourselves by being the first to name an oncoming car. The cars back then were built like tanks, none of this plastic stuff. I remember the amazing gas wars of the day. Just down the street from our house, gas was selling for 17.9 cents per gallon. It was quite a different time. So, when I found this old, rusting '57 Ford in Clarksville, TX, it was sort of sad to see it deteriorating and yet, at the same time, it was exhilarating as it brought back many wonderful memories.
North of Farmersville - 8"x 11" - Oil

Whenever I paint in plein air, I look for quiet places away from distractions. Farmersville is a small community north of where I live. I set up my easel by the side of the road, as I was captivated by the composition of the landscape and the subtle colors before me. Well into the painting, I heard voices approaching which broke the absolute stillness of the moment. Looking around, a father with his son rode up on their bicycles and stopped to see what I was doing. They had already ridden 25 miles but I still had the nerve to ask them if they would ride up and down the road for me a few times while I shot photos of them. Never know, I thought, when I might be able to use them in a painting.
Autumn's Beginning - 8"x 10" - Oil

It's in the country, away from the hustle and bustle, that I seem to flourish and to think most clearly. It's there in the fresh air, strolling through the fields that there is peace and an overwhelming sense of gratitude for nature's beauty. The changing color of the leaves, the veils of atmosphere, the faint sounds of mooing cattle in the distant pasture, and the sound of wind blowing through the grasses, all merge to imprint on my soul a lasting memory.

I ask you to consider adding one of these beautiful works to your already lovely homes.

To purchase, please contact Abend Gallery Fine Arts, LLC
303-355-0950 or 800-288-3726

Abend Gallery Fine Arts, LLC

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Sunday, December 2, 2012

Realism in the Visual Arts

Generally speaking, people like to organize, catalog, compartmentalize, systematize, classify, label, stack, file, group, categorize, rank, pigeonhole, and box up stuff. Art historians have mastered this ability, after all when you can stick a label on something it's a lot easier to file and locate.
Realism in the fine arts is one such label.

Rembrandt  -  Self Portrait  -  31.69"x 26'57"  -  Oil  -  1660

Most art historians seem to agree that realism, with a capital R began as a movement in France in the mid-nineteenth century...and curiously they pretty much attribute its beginnings to a painting by Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) titled Burial at Ornans.
At the time, the painting was considered too course to be considered art. It lacked drama and moral uplift. It portrayed people matter-of-factly, without flattery or condescension. 
Arts, Ideas and Civilization by Jack Hobbs and Robert Duncan puts it like this: "What sets (Burial at Ornans) apart from all previous work is its uncompromising objectivity. Not only was the subject taken from ordinary life; the artist defied traditional conventions of style and composition and supposedly, made no attempt to sentimentalize, ennoble, or even interpret the subject. Theoretically, the painting is a straightforward portrayal of real life."
Gustave Courbet  -  Burial at Ornans  -  10'3"x 21'9"  -  Oil  - 1849

Courbet broke with the traditional art of his day which focused on romanticized historical subjects, allegories, idealized landscapes and genre scenes. Courbet chose to paint the ordinary, the unadorned scenes of everyday life and landscapes. The motto of the Realists was "one must be of one's own time".
A leading critic of the time dubbed his work "naturalism" but Courbet preferred the word "realism"...and that's how it began.
To say however that Courbet was the first to paint realistically would be ridiculous. Certainly one could argue that some forms of realism have been created by man since he first began making marks.

Greek - Laocoon and His Sons - Early first century 

Today we look upon Courbet's work and ask, "What's the big deal"...but then all art is a product of its time. Definitions can change over time. By today's standards the room for what we classify as realism has been greatly enlarged. Sharon Griffes Tarr agrees, "Like Impressionism, realism also enjoys broad connotations today. Just open any magazine and see how artists are defining their works today. The definition includes any subject portrayal that is recognizable to various degrees, i.e.: abstracted realism, contemporary realism, photo-realism, etc. I've even seen artists who have used the term "impressionistic realism". If we accept the trends, then the definition of realism must mean any portrayal of a subject where the subject can be identified."

Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot - Le Torrent Pierreaux - 19.76"x 24.25" - Oil - 1865-1870

I asked my Facebook friends to share their definitions. What follows is an example of trusting your friends to bring something of worth to the table. They did not disappoint.
Skeets Richards - I see realism in art as an honest depiction of the world our senses detect but also a depiction which allows those senses, in combination with our thoughts, to fully expand upon and enjoy what we are looking at.
Wanda Caro - Feet on the ground, not on the clouds; you paint what you see, not what you dream.
Barbara Conaway - I think of realism as a depiction of something that can be identifiable in the final artwork, it exists within the style and not the style itself. To me realism includes everything from photorealism to impressionism, whereas abstraction is work that deals with ideas and feelings that don't include an identifiable subject. I like the use of the term "contemporary realism" because it can be used today by so many artists that combine the teachings of the old masters with newer techniques.

Ralph Goings - Paul's Corner Cushion - 48"x 68" - Oi. - 1970

Debra Norton - I agree with what James Gurney says in his book Imaginative Realism. Realism in art has as its "goal to represent the real world truthfully and objectively, based on close observation of common details and contemporary life." He defines photorealism "as the resemblance of a work of art to particular qualities of photographic representation. The process of photography flattens objects, which shows up in photorealistic painting, but realism gives objects the volume they have in real life."
Garin Baker - As Baudelaire said in his essay of 1854, The Heroism of Modern Life..."A work of art that holds allegiance with a truthful and honest representation of the artist's inner or outer reality, communicating a personal truth and resonance about humanity and life in all it's magnificence."

Edward Hopper - Eleven AM - Oil - 1926

Nancy Peterson - Realism in a painting, in its truest form, represents everything just as it is and not how you would perceive it to be.
Trung Cao - To me, realism is any art that holds true to the natural world such as light, form, perspective, etc. Subject should not be of importance.
Jack Liberman - Realism is painting a subject with the creative use of light, atmosphere, design and sensitivity to the big idea or thought that inspires one to want to communicate a human emotion that one feels... and to state it in the most efficient manner by subordinating things so that one focuses on the couple of important things that conveys the reason for the painting. Realism is not painting every detail like a needlepoint or a picture postcard camera image that has no selectivity. The best realism is universal and ageless and is a perfect balance between form and content. The best painting that survives the test of time is Realism.
Roxanne Naydan - I found a statement by Linda Nochlin which goes like this: "The Realist credo is a truthful, objective and impartial observation of the real world based on meticulous observation of contemporary life." Personally, I don't see how any observation can be regarded as impartial, so even if the rendering is truthful, one's vision of reality is not unbiased. Even a photorealist might edit, determining what to illuminate/what to obscure. Furthermore, our uniquely personal visions of reality and how we chose to portray it, seems to me to be at the very essence of what makes it so precious!

Albert Bierstadt - California Coast - 30.25"x 44.25" - Oil

I really like this one by Jolyn Wells Moran, "There's no such thing as realism in painting, but when we see a painting, we may call it realism when it's a reasonable facsimile."

In truth, she's correct. Even the best of our paintings are merely poor, superficial facsimiles of reality, having no inherent life, and incapable of truly capturing what we see.

Don Gardi has an interesting take on the subject. "A photo or computer screen can both be made up of dots or squares and still represent realism or for that matter an abstract, or any other style. Realism is like many forms of art and is basically a style of painting in which the artist's intent is to as closely as possible reflect the natural state of the subject in terms of light, color, shape, and form. Reality is the state of things as they actually exist, rather than as they may appear or might be imagined."

Ed Pointer - Midwinter Flight - 16"x 20" - Acrylic

...And then there's my longtime friend and mentor, Ed Pointer, who sparked the whole idea for this blog when he sent me an article he wrote, titled On Realism. He has serious concerns about the current Realism movement. He confesses to becoming somewhat weary of the whole realist painting scene. "It is in fact becoming so common as to cause boredom." He believes that the uninformed art viewer is oriented toward a photographic presentation and that, in part, has sparked the increased market for such painting endeavors.
He continues, "If anything today, in the age of digital photography, I wonder why more realists aren't dedicated to photography rather than the inhalation of fumes as they tightly render something that could be done more interestingly with a little photo-creativity."

At this point, he references the work of Desiree Dolron, intricately linked to the Flemish School of painters, but with a 21st century vision. Although her works are digitally created and at times monumental in size, the result Pointer feels, is not photography and not painting but it suggests painting and doesn't look photographic.

Desiree Dolron  -  "Xteriors VIII"

Pointer continues, "Of course this (photo-creativity) is accomplished by realists to the detriment of the purist who insists on gathering all the skill and mechanical perfection possible to further enhance his craft. However, in their pursuit of how tightly and accomplished they can duplicate a subject, some contemporary realists lack the visionary attributes of the Impressionists of yesteryear. In my opinion, realism of today has fallen into disrepair. It's first mechanical failure being what is known as 'photo realism', where a slide is projected onto a canvas and meticulously duplicated. Though this is not true of all photo realism, it is true of much of it. Today, with digital photography, realism owns many crutches; projecting images and surface painting them is prominent in many who produce realistic paintings."
Pointer breaks realism into two types: 1) Extreme realism: Paintings representing in exact detail various subjects as they appear to us. 2) Creative realism: Representing various subjects loosely by interpreting them as they appear to us.

Edgar Degas - Diego Martelli - Oil - 1879

He believes the painting of Diego Martelli by Edgar Degas clearly represents the latter. "It is beautifully composed and rather loosely painted yet still realistic; this is the kind of realism I prefer because it is an immediate apprehension of the subject and presents the artist's impression of Monsieur Martelli while also demonstrating Degas' approach as one who knows and is perhaps well acquainted with Martelli; the two combine then to give a unique and personal interpretation of Diego. It is not cold, neither is it purely observational."
I think most of us would agree that each form of realism shown, plus thousands of other examples we could site, all have their place and their collectors. There's plenty of art in various techniques to satisfy any artistic taste.
As one of the articles I've read states, "Realism in art is a relative concept: the degree to which an art style is perceived as realistic depends on who is looking at it."
There you have it...many opinions, many approaches, and varied results...all adding to the story of man and the visual arts.

Special thanks to all my Facebook friends who were kind enough to respond to my request for a definition of "realism". Sorry I couldn't share every single response.

Reference and photo sources:
Art Through the Ages - Helen Gardner - Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc
Arts, Ideas and Civilization - Jack A. Hobbs & Robert L. Duncan - Prentice-Hall
Mainstreams of Modern Art - John Canaday - Holt, Rinehart and Winston
The Visual Arts: A History - Hugh Honour & John Fleming - Prentice-Hall
Google Images

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