See how and why I paint, as I paint - and share my thoughts as I do so.
| 15 October, 2014 16:33
A winter's evening on Tilehurst Lane, Dorking, UK, the colour drained from the trees as dusk turns to night.. It seemed very evocative as I walked home,a car passing me, its sidelights only dimly lighting the road ahead. I had just passed under the railway bridge, my marker for a one mile walk! Unusually, I used black acrylic ink (something I never normally do) combined with a mix of Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna, which gives either a warm or cool black depending on what you want. The lack of colour in the picture generally tends to accentuate what colour there is - most particularly the tail lights. I enjoyed painting this: I faced many challenges but learned a heck of a lot about how trees 'grow'.
| 06 September, 2014 11:05
Multiple representatives from 25 American art galleries, each of which has in turn been voted best gallery in their State, have awarded my painting "The Temple, Earl's Vineyard" 3rd prize in the 2014 American Art Awards, Realism-Landscape category. This is a world wide competition and this year, thousands of entries were received from 51 countries.
| 28 July, 2014 15:31
Good news! The judges in the 2014 EAC Art Awards annual worldwide competition for amateur artists over the age of 60 have awarded me 1st prize in the "More experienced artist's Landscape" category for my painting "Path to Park Farm". In all there were 450 entrants in this category - all artists with considerable experience and talent. The prizes will be presented at the House of Lords in London on October 8th.
| 18 March, 2014 10:42
I believe this is one of the most important speeches about Art in decades:
by Frederick Ross
February 7, 2014 Artists Keynote Address to Connecticut Society of Portrait Artists
would like to thank Jeanine and Joel and the Connecticut Society of Portrait Artists for inviting me to give this speech today. The theme of the conference is Building on the Classics.
Thinking about this theme, I've concluded that nothing could be more appropriate than to ask and answer this question: Why Realism? There are finally today many organizations that believe in the value and importance of realism, both classical and contemporary; but why Realism? Why, after a century of denigration, repression and near annihilation, when the accepted beliefs taught in nearly every high school, college and university for the last hundred years, has been that realism is unoriginal? After all, all realists do is just copy from nature. Realism they say is unsophisticated. Most people can tell what is going on in realistic painting or sculpture. It's so easy to understand. It's uncreative; only creating forms and ideas not found in nature show real originality. So the question of the day for society, and for realist artists, the question for the month, year, and really for the rest of their lives, is: Why Realism?
My answer is direct, simple and should be self-evident: The visual fine arts of drawing, painting and sculpture are best understood first last and always as a language; a visual language. It was developed and preserved first and foremost as a means of communication very much like spoken and written languages. And like language it is successful if communication takes place and it is unsuccessful if it does not. This answer simultaneously defines the term "Fine Art." So fine art is a way that human beings can communicate.
And how can one truly communicate except by a language that is understood by those who are listening? And if communication is the goal then our language must have a vocabulary and a grammar which is shared by the teller and listener alike. If you think about it, the earliest forms of written languages used simple drawings of real objects to represent those objects. That makes the origins of written language overlap in a nearly identical way to the origins of fine art. Without a common language there is no communication and no understanding, and that holds true as well for fine art. It also must communicate in a similar way to spoken and written languages which have the uniquely human purpose of describing the world in which we live, and how we feel about every aspect of life and living. As a language it is like all of the hundreds of the spoken and written languages, that are capable of expressing the enormous limitless scope of human thoughts, ideas, beliefs, values and especially our feelings, passions, dreams, and fantasies; all the varied and infinite stories of humanity.
The vocabulary of fine art is realistic images which we see everywhere throughout our lives, and the grammar are the rules and skills needed to successfully and believably render the images. These are some of the rules of grammar which holds together the real objects or vocabulary of the visual language of fine art: finding contours; modeling; manipulating paint to create shadows and highlights with the use of glazing and scumbling that enhance the forms through layers of pigment; use of selective focus; perspective; foreshortening; compositional balance; balancing warm and cool color; lost and found shapes and lines.
Please consider this additional self-evident truth: Even things which are not real such as our dreams and fantasies as well as all stories of fiction... which are not real... are expressed in our conscious and subconscious minds by using real images. Consider that, only real images are used in our fantasies and dreams...none of which look like Modern art. Therefore abstract painting does not reflect the subconscious mind. Dreams and fantasies do that and artwork can also do that, but only by using real images and assembling them in ways that feel like fantasies or dreams.
So, there we have it, the core concept that explains what fine art is. It is a visual language which is capable of expressing the endless range of thoughts and ideas which can also be expressed in great literature and poetry. However, unlike the hundreds of spoken and written languages, the vocabulary of traditional realism in fine art has something which makes it unique, in one important way...the language of traditional realism cuts across all those other languages and can be understood by all people everywhere on earth regardless of what language it is they speak or write in. Thus Realism is a universal language that enables communication with all people and to people of all times...past...present...and future. Modernist and abstract art is not a language. It's the opposite of language for it represents the absence of language. And the absence of language means the loss of communication. It takes away from mankind perhaps our most important characteristic...that which makes us human....the ability to communicate in great depth, detail and sophistication. And in the case of fine arts modernism banished the only universal language that exists...realism with the techniques and skills required to achieve it. A knowledge which had grown and developed and was carefully documented and preserved as it was passed down for centuries from masters to students.
If the truth be known, abstract art is not really even abstract. The process of using "abstraction" that is credited to Modern art is a misappropriation of the word "abstract," which means nearly the opposite. It is in fact language that uses a process of abstraction to create symbols that mean something else. Only human beings can use abstract ideas and none of them look like Jackson Pollack or William De Kooning. Let me explain it like this: The word "paper" means what I'm holding in my hands. The written word "p a p e r" is a further abstraction of the spoken word "paper." If I make a painting in which a man is shown reading from a piece of paper, I've used the vocabulary of traditional realism and created a different kind of abstraction which is instantly recognized by an English speaking person as paper, a French person as "papier," to a Hungarian as "Papir," or a Latvian as "papira".
Once we understand that fine art is a visual language, and that the process of creating it is a true abstraction, then rejecting it on the basis of being descriptive or telling a story is patently absurd. But modernist educators teach students that realism is nothing more than storytelling, which they ridicule. It would be equivalent to rejecting anything written if it told a story, or described a feeling, idea, belief, or thought, or even if the words meant anything at all.
Modern art has taught us that it's a lie to create an illusion of 3 dimensions in a work of art. The painting is really a flat surface and Cezanne is credited with discovering this truth, bringing us closer to truth by collapsing the landscape. Mattisse collapsed our homes and families and Pollack and DeKooning put them all in a blender and flung or dribbled or slapped on the paint in a cacophony of disorganized shapes and color. This, we were told demonstrated an incredible truth...that the canvas is flat. Well, we have news for them...any 3 year old who is taken to a museum knows that the canvases are flat. And then these artists, having proved the canvas flat, proceeded to spend the rest of their careers proving it over and over again. But, what is remarkable in saying, showing or knowing that? Demonstrating this obvious fact is accomplished better by just saying it. But that's no more brilliant than saying the sky is blue, that fire is hot, or that water is wet. The equivalent of this absurdity in written languages would be to say that all writing is untruthful because all that is really there on the page are different shapes of straight or curved or squiggly lines. And since that is closer to the truth than placing meaning in those lines...than using them to make words and the words to form ideas...that's a lie too. Therefore, to bring the analogy full circle...the best book would be one that demonstrates this “truth” with page after page of meaningless shapes and squiggles...thus showing us the modernist's profound definition of truth. How many books and poems would be purchased and read in which all that were there were meaningless shapes on every page?
What, then, is fine art and fine literature, fine music, poetry, or theatre? In every case human beings use materials supplied by nature (the clay and colors and the movements and sounds of life) and creatively combines or molds them into something else which is capable of communication and meaning. Throughout history, people have found one way after another of communicating their thoughts, ideas, beliefs, values and the entire range of their shared experiences of living. When it comes to the visual arts, modernists like to say "why waste your time doing realism? It's all been done already" That would be exactly like saying "Why waste your time writing anything? It's all already been written. There is nothing left to say".
Realism has been denigrated repeatedly for being no more than illustration, as if illustration was a dirty word. Would anyone say that Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel is just illustration? After all, it does illustrate the bible. In truth Illustration is just another word for storytelling. Would we reject written language because it tells a story? Of course not. But we all recognize that there are good stories and bad stories, some well written or poorly written...verbose or eloquent. So too are there bad works of art, mediocre works of art, good and great works of art and the rare masterpieces. We may not all agree all the time, but most people can see intuitively the value in a Vermeer, Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Alm-Tadema or William Bouguereau. And if people were not brain washed, they would pretty much be able to see the actual truth about a canvas with disorganized globs of paint on it: that it is something which takes virtually no skill to make and lacks any genuine means of communication.
Modernism needs to reject all realism because they are rejecting nearly all meaning. How many modern works are titled with the word "Untitled"? Untitled #1 Untitled #33 Untitled ad nauseum. They wear the word "Untitled" like a badge of honor. In doing this, they are telling us and their professors alike..."Look I was careful not to imbue this mess I made on the canvas with any sort of meaning at all!”
Storytelling has become a dirty word in the world of fine art. Storytelling is demeaned as mere "illustration" and "illustration" itself is relegated to the "commercial arts." Go sign up to study in the fine arts department of any college or university in America, and tell the "officials" who run the place, that you want to paint great anecdotal scenes either as histories, or allegorical paintings, or even every day scenes that capture modern life...anything that might symbolize or express the most powerful of human themes. What do you think will happen? After looking down their nose at you, trying to figure out how to say what they want without insulting you too much, they will politely tell you that, "Well dear, you should really check out the graphic arts department or look into a commercial art school or go to a trade school for that matter; we do not consider your interests fine art." They will tell you that storytelling is not what they do. It doesn't interest them. It's not a fitting purpose for fine art. It's not "Relevant".
So, what is fitting for modernist and post-modernist philosophy? What is relevant? They will tell you: 'form for its own sake"..."color for its own sake".... "line or mass for their own sake." That is art. There is nothing else that art should communicate or express. They say they're showing us how to see differently. But we all see what's there and more-so what is not there.
To them these abstract or minimalist gimmicks are far more worthy of accolades of merit than recreating scenes from the real world, or from our fantasies, myths or legends; more profound than imagery which shows our hopes, dreams, and the most powerful moments in life. Empty canvases, or empty rooms, or piles of rocks are more important to them and far more "relevant" subject matter, than the moments in life that describe and define our shared humanity. Squares of color are superior to subjects about people of color; layers of textured paper trumps showing the layered textures of life. Dribbles of paint are more compelling than a child learning how to dribble a basketball. Bags of garbage are considered more sophisticated than showing the transition from self-conscious adolescence to self-assured adulthood. And a light blinking on and off in an empty room attracts journalistic praise while the blinking passage of life and time are but worthless sentimentality. These are the ignorant precepts, of the prefects, who hold our museums and colleges in a hundred-year long grip of banal irrelevancies; boring our inner souls and our youth alike in a system where the skilled are ridiculed and the talented are ignored and disillusioned. The old masters until very recently were dying off without a trained generation to protect, preserve and perpetuate that which had been preserved for so many centuries before.
Well I'm now ecstatic to say that there is such a generation and it's all of us. We all are part of it. And the realist artists of today are culture's heroes and heroines. We are all together playing a role in preserving and further developing one of humanities greatest accomplishments: the Fine Arts. Just three short decades ago there was practically nobody left who believed as we do now. But in the past ten years, especially, there has been an explosion in the size and ranks of the realist movement. From a trickle there is today a raging torrent of tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of people devoted to the resurgence of great realist fine art which has been the missing universal language that can help interpret and express the ideas and developments of the last 100 years, perhaps, in many ways, the most important century in all of human history. Many artists today are once again looking at the achievements and the great art of the past, and once again endeavoring to build upon what has come before as we continue into the 21st century.
Modernism achieved a virtual monopoly for the past century with controls not unlike the powerful grip of government regulators or an official licensing commission. The institutions of cultural power banned nearly all artwork done by living artists that could be considered traditional realism. They controlled and still control nearly every museum and every fine art department in virtually all of the colleges and universities in the western world. Nearly all journalistic art criticism in newspapers and magazines showed the same all-consuming bias. All of the art teachers and art courses on every level of education from kindergarten through graduate school are included. Modernism overwhelmed even focused art colleges like Cooper's Union, Pratt, and the Rhode Island School of Design.
No matter which way you turned you could not find any course of education dedicated to teaching the skills of Traditional Classical Realism. The artist guilds were long gone and atelier based schools had disappeared as well. We could only find a rare thread or two of teaching that still included the training techniques which had been used nearly everywhere until the beginning of the 20th century. Oh, sure, most art departments pay lip service to learning how to draw and will usually include one life drawing class in the requirements for a degree in fine arts or Art Education. But nearly all of those courses are run by art teachers who cannot really draw themselves. And it's as true today as it was a hundred years ago, or a thousand years ago: “You cannot teach what you cannot do yourself.”
Those so-called life drawing classes usually specialize in five minute poses where students are taught that getting the gesture quickly is more important than getting it right. Drawings that are done well and show experience and effort are dismissed as being over worked and having too many lines. But learning how to draw also requires long poses; long enough for students to learn how to find the right lines which define the contours; contours which move in and out of the form; contours which enable foreshortening and successful modeling. Only classical atelier training could accomplish what is necessary for an artist to bring to life their creative ideas.
This is why even though realism is entering its next renaissance, we cannot simply now ignore the modern art establishment and we must continue to speak out. As many of you know, I'm the Chairman and founder of ARC A. R. C. which stands for the Art Renewal Center. The Art Renewal Center was founded in 1999 and we didn't open our website until November of 2000. We waited until we had more than 15,000 of the greatest works of art in history available for people to view. Today it's over 80,000 with a large percentage available in high resolution images for study. Our first goal was to make available to the art world and art lovers everywhere responsible opposing views to the modernist establishment. But by 2002 there were so many requests by visitors asking where they could go to learn the methods of the old masters, that we started searching the western world for places that still made available classical training by educators who themselves had been atelier trained. By 2003 we could only find 14 such schools, all very small, teaching between five and fifteen students each. Less than 200 students, in all the schools combined, were being trained in the classical methods. We then added to the ARC website a listing of ARC Approved Atelier Schools. The response was overwhelming. Within eighteen months all of those small schools were finding all of the students they could handle and plans were afoot to open many more ateliers. Today there are over 70 ARC Approved Ateliers; schools and academies with approved courses of training with thousands of students ...an increase of over 2000% in just ten years.
We are incredibly fortunate to be speaking together on the cusp of one of the most important, moments in all of art history. It is very rare indeed for people to have the opportunity of living through major cultural shifts of the underlying tectonic plates of culture. We in the realist art community are bringing about a world-wide shift in the perception and definition of what constitutes great art. The modernist establishment's attempts to silence us have failed. Ironically, aided by the most modern of technologies, the Internet, the truth is available in more and more places. Many of the students in the ARC schools have told us how they wasted years and fortunes of money in college art departments. The institutions of the art world must change or perish. After more than a century of blind alleyways, nightmarish detours, and mind numbing “Art-Speak”, to boost up what should have been rejected long ago. The validity of the established modernist view is finally being questioned.
Together, all of us here are picking up the torch that has been dropped. The job we have today must be to reform and reinstitute proper training methods across the whole infrastructure. It's not enough to again be making great works of art, we need to sell and market them and we need to take back or at least equally cohabit the major museums which play an indispensable role in educating the people as to what objects from the past and present are to be considered the most precious by society and culture. The 20th century was so damaging to the visual arts that the pent up demand and need for more gratifying and meaningful art has grown enormously in society, resulting in the resurgence of classical based realism. We are only at the very beginning of where this movement is headed. Contemporary Realism has only just begun to reassert its value and importance and the realist artists coming forth are but scratching the surface of the great works of art which are certain to emanate from this movement as the decades of the 21st century take form.
So now, as historians, artists, and art lovers, we must ask what happened and what do we need to know of the past to not only pick up the torch and move forward but then to understand art history, and make sense of what has taken place. Then new generations of artists will have a strong foundation based on that truth and the real achievements and potential of the fine arts which are firmly grounded in the human psyche and the wants and needs of human beings to communicate visually, for which the fine arts are so uniquely well equipped. We must continue to rewrite the art history of the past 150 years. We must get the truth into the books being used to teach our youth. We must teach the validity, power and beauty of the realist visual language.
So let us look deeper at what has occurred. The writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau said "Men are born free but everywhere they are in chains." Let's substitute "artists" for "men" and we have a declaration which more accurately describes that state of the art world through most of the last century. “Artists are born free, but everywhere they are in chains.” Artist have been virtually (if not actually) imprisoned; whether we are talking about the chained constraints of "conceptual art,” or the drudgery of "deconstruction," ; the “shackles of shock”, or being mired in "minimalism,” or the vapid, inane impoverishment or works described as "abstract". All are chains which have been “forged link by link and yard by yard”, paying lip service to composition and design, while long ago having abandoned all of the parameters of fine art; but especially the paramount need to harmonize great subjects and themes with drawing, modeling, perspective, color, and tone, and expert manipulation of the paint. And what are these subjects and themes? I'll repeat again...they are the way by which the artist can communicate ideas, values, beliefs and the endless range of human thoughts and emotions.
If we look more closely, we can see that for most of the past century, there has been and ongoing attempt to malign and degrade the reputations and artwork produced during the Victorian era and its counterparts in Europe and America. Sadly they were very successful. But in the past 30 years it has started to change. I tend to think of 1980, when the Metropolitan Museum took some of their finest academic paintings that had been in storage since World War I, and hung them in the new Andre Meyer Wing and announced their decision to the world. Hilton Kramer of the NY Times lead a widespread journalistic assault accusing the museum of taking corpses from their basement and excoriated them for daring to hang William Bouguereau and Jean Leon Gerome next to Goya and Manet. I was even more outraged at Kramer's remarks than he was at what the museum had done, and after failing to get them to publish an Op-ed response, I had to pay for the space in the Sunday NY Times Arts and Leisure section in order for people to hear a responsible rebuttal. It ran twice and I received dozens of supportive letters including one from Thomas Wolfe whose sympathizing beliefs were satirically expressed in his legendary book titled "The Painted Word". Fortunately the Met stuck to their guns and today that section has expanded considerably, though there are still masterpieces in their vaults which remain under appreciated.
Over the past three decades, I and other art historians have done a great deal of research and found an overwhelming preponderance of evidence that proves that the modernist descriptions of this era are no more than lies and distortions fabricated in order to denigrate all of the traditional realist art produced between 1850 and 1920. Emile Zola's novel the "Masterpiece" was a fictional story about Impressionist painters being mistreated by the officials of the Paris Salon run by the Academic masters of that time. This totally made-up account of what occurred amazingly started to be written into art history texts as if it all had actually occurred and to this day the heart of Modernist accounts of the art history between 1850 and World War I are based on this book's tale of woe.
The suppressed truth about this period, however, is that during the 19th century there was an explosion of artistic activity unrivaled in all prior history. Thousands of properly trained artists developed a myriad of new techniques and explored countless new subjects, styles and perspectives that had never been done before. They covered nearly every aspect of human activity. They were the product of the expansion of freedom and democracy and a profound respect for human beings. They helped disseminate the growing view that every individual was valuable, that all people are born with equal inalienable rights; especially the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
The artists and the writers of the 19th century identified, codified, protected and perpetuated the great humanist values and momentous Age-of-Reason discoveries of the 18th century Enlightenment. The writers from that era, such as Honoré de Balzac, Victor Hugo, Mark Twain, and Charles Dickens, have been widely praised and celebrated, while the artists of the same period, communicating most of the same concepts and values....in stark contrast....have been mercilessly ridiculed and slandered. But working together, this generation helped free the slaves, protect the environment, stop child labor, eradicate unsafe working conditions, ensured women equal rights and the right to vote, broke up monopolies, and protected and assured minority rights. And for this, their pay back, at least for the artists, has been to dismiss their work, denigrate their methods, lie about the meaning of their subjects and berate their achievements. Why? Because they didn't lead the way to splattered paint, blank canvases or industrial size Campbell's soup cans? Therefore they were called "irrelevant"?
And here we have a keystone concept of the modernists. These 19th century artists, who we love, are not considered "relevant". (And if they are not relevant, certainly modern realists are even less relevant by such standards.) Only works and techniques that shed all the former definitions and parameters of fine art were to be considered "relevant". Only those artists, that lead the way to abstract expressionism were worthy to be called "relevant". Nothing could have been further from the truth! In light of what I have just explained, the purpose of art is to communicate. It is successful if it explores the most profound aspects of the human experience, and accomplishes it with poetry, beauty and grace. If it is unskilled, awkward, and self-conscious, it fails and is unsuccessful. But to say that Academicians were irrelevant to their times or to the over-arching path of the fine arts through the ages is utterly wrong and incorrect. They were, in fact, at the pinnacle of 500 hundred years of art development on every level. The modernists were the impediment to the main path of the fine arts throughout history.
Relevance must be understood on many levels and perhaps one of the most essential elements, to understand the art of any era, is to see it in its historical context. Understanding the 19th Century will then show us how it relates to our world today. In order to understand the relevance of William Bouguereau and other masters of the 19th century it is essential to place them in their own time. And what was happening in history during their time was nothing short of "momentous". I am speaking about some of the most significant events in all of human history. The academic artists of the 19th century were not only "relevant" to the times, and relevant to the major thread of art history, but they were relevant to the evolution of art itself, as these artists were working at what will certainly be considered the most important crossroads in human history.
Art history has generally been accurate in its description of fine art from the early Renaissance until about 1840. For the most part, art historians have given the great and near great their due or at least reasonable notice. That was true until we get to the mid nineteenth century. From roughly 1848 onwards, all of the normal criteria for judging, describing and chronicling the history of art were tossed out the window by 20th century educators. Almost all the art text books that have been used since the middle of the 20th century have rewritten the history of the 19th century to fit the needs and prejudices of the "modernist" art world which sees all of art history through a "deconstructionist" lens that defines as important, valuable, and relevant only those works which broke one or another of the rules and parameters by which works of art were formerly valued and appreciated. Art history was seen as a long march from the "breakthroughs" of Impressionism, through a stream of different movements which led the way to abstraction, and was espoused with a strident religious fervor by the followers of this "new history" to be the greatest of all forms and styles of art. Then, with a double-think out of George Orwell's "1984" they separated the analysis of all previous eras, (pre-19th Century), into its own separate history. It is as though there is one written art history with one set of parameters, and then a new art history that built itself on destroying 19 Century's relevance by attacking the very parameters they use to praise all other earlier centuries. Indeed, they have created a supremely illogical schism.
So let us look at what was actually being done by academic artists of the late 19th century. In fact, it is in the realm of human dignity wherein one finds the truly prodigious accomplishments of the writers and the artists of that time. William Bouguereau, who was considered perhaps the greatest living artist in France during his life, is my favorite example, since so many other artists emulated and adored his work and contribution to his field. He was accused of just working for his bourgeois clients, but in truth he prided himself on being able to paint anything he wanted to and the demand for his work was so great that most works were sold before the paint had finished drying. He was a workaholic painting 14 to 16 hours a day. He took a direct personal interest in his employees, his students and his colleagues and was widely known to help almost anyone who was in need who touched his life. He was beloved by them all. I have read many letters written to him by these people. We even have some of the original documents in the Bouguereau Archives. One very touching one comes to mind written to him by one of the elder masters of the period, Paul Delaroche. Born in 1797, he was 28 years his senior, but in our letter he thanks his good friend Bouguereau for having leant him funds, admits to having squandered some earnings with which he might have paid him back sooner and thanked him for permitting him more time to repay him. Bouguereau also played a central role in opening up the Paris Salon and the French Academies to women artists. Starting in 1868 he along with Rudolph Julian, Jules Lefebvre, Gabriel Ferrier and Robert Tony Fleury, all amongst France's most successful and famous painters, started holding regular classes and critiques for women. By 1893 all major schools had courses for women, even the much renowned Academie Francais.
Bouguereau was born in 1825, after the storm of the American and French Revolutions, two events more than any others which embody the breakthroughs of Enlightenment thinking. Bouguereau and Victor Hugo stood at the top of the list of the leading artists and writers of their day, whose work was to codify those advances, and bridge the gap from centuries of human societies ruled by kings and emperors who dictated by divine right, to a civilization made of men and laws where governments could only gain legitimacy from the consent of the governed: justice, equality under the law, elections by popular vote; protection of human rights; the obligation of government and society to identify, organize, and protect those rights; freedom of the press permitting and insuring popular disclosure, debate and resolution of countless injustices from or embedded in remaining and recalcitrant institutions which were still riddled with the followers of former rules and rulers who fought to hold on to their power. Let me quote from Alexis De Tocqueville's Democracy in America, written in 1835-1840, where he states:
"The society of the modern world, which I have sought to delineate, and which I seek to judge, has but just come into existence. Time has not yet shaped it into perfect form: the great revolution by which it has been created is not yet over; and amid the occurrences of our time, it is almost impossible to discern what will pass away with the revolution itself, and what will survive its close. The world which is rising into existence is still half encumbered by the remains of the world which is waning into decay; and amid the vast perplexity of human affairs, none can say how much of ancient institutions and former manners will remain, or how much will completely disappear."
It was not at all clear where we would wind up, but it was clarity that was needed and was essential if people were to organize their lives securely, for only a free and secure people can build a civilization fit for Culture and the arts. So it was the writers and artists of the "first" century of liberty and freedom, the 19th Century, that considered it their duty and responsibility to organize, to codify, to popularize and protect the values, laws, and democratized institutions of society which would ensure the perpetuation of liberty; a way of life so recently come to the affairs of man. How they were to discharge these duties would surely impact and effect future generations perhaps for centuries to come.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau cried out at the beginning of his landmark work, The Social Contract: "Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains." Rousseau's work focused on one of the most essential concepts that sired the western world from "medievalism," and protected people from being vulnerable to the whims of a despot, or philosopher king alike, either of whom were really only responsible to their own sensibilities validated and legitimized by "divine right". The Western world moved from a world filled with edicts of the "sovereign" to a world ruled by "sovereign states." Terms like the "general will" and "social contract" and "government, of, by and for the people" were disseminated everywhere throughout the newly "free" world.
These revolutionary ideas became concepts whose meanings and understanding were increasingly embedded in the educated classes, spreading rapidly to workers in the fields, and laborers in factories and shipyards, all of whom were to participate in the benefits of a newly free and democratic society as the 18th century origins led to 19th century codification. It started first narrowly, as with only land owners voting in the original US Constitution, and then ever more broadly until by the time the 20th century had finished dealing with two world wars, the great Depression and countless other horrors, we saw an evolution from an agricultural society to the industrialized and then technologically advanced society of today.
So it is these core beliefs and the breakthroughs of the Enlightenment, its ideas and concepts, that are so crucial to understanding the context in which the artists of the 19th century lived. They were, in fact, addressing the very heart of Enlightenment thought. Bouguereau painted young peasant girls with a solemn dignity and a hushed and reverential beauty. One of his works shows a strong but beautiful peasant girl holding a staff and looking the viewer directly and unabashedly in the eye. She is standing her ground, so to speak. In another major work a life-size gypsy mother holds her daughter and both are standing on a mountain top looking down at the viewer. Their gaze, too, is direct but welcoming. In this painting Bouguereau is elevating these gypsies by silhouetting them against a vast sky with a low horizon line. We are looking up to them. Their kind and welcoming expressions imply their acceptance of us; the viewer is asked to return this show of respect, which can only be properly echoed by our acceptance of them regardless of the lowly status of their birth. The very truth and reality of their birth once a negative, now elevates them to the heavens... a status now where all of humanity resides.
Now, in the 19th Century, all people doing any and all activities, were considered worthy subjects and themes for the artists to address. Subjects included paintings of the poor and homeless, women thrown out in the cold or children toiling until late at night enduring 16 hour work days. There were scenes of marriage and children and family life; scenes of schools and courts and hospitals and industry, parks and mountains and countless other topics. For example, a new popular theme was of hypocritical clergy preaching to give up worldly possessions from their opulent apartments filled with art and antiques and personal servants. How revolutionary this was for artists. When Vibert, Brunery or Crogaert satirized the clergy, and painted cardinals in sumptuous surroundings, playing cards with pretty young socialites, or hiring the services of a fortune teller, they were saying that the clergy was human and vulnerable to the same weaknesses and frailty of character as other people. But beyond that, to spoof the clergy represented our new found freedom of speech. A modernist professor once said to me "how inane and silly to show cardinals in silly poses like that." His prejudice blinded him from even beginning to figure out what Vibert had done...what rules of conduct he had broken from the prior rulers of society. We have been taught to elevate artists for breaking rules and conventions of perspective or for undermining realistic drawing, or daring not to follow prior precepts, but the academic artists who had been on the front lines helping all of us to win our freedoms and rights, were also helping to create a climate where it was even possible to consider breaking the rules of art. ....which by comparison, were unimportant to the rule breaking which lead to freedom and justice for all. In previous centuries, an artist would have had his head cut off for spoofing cardinals in this way.
From exposing societal ills and portraying the value and equality of all people, it was but a half step away to explore the personal inner life of individuals and to value and elevate mankind's hopes, fantasies, and dreams. For academic artists and writers of the 19th Century, humanity was what counted, and everything that makes us human; how we see ourselves and how we see the world. Humanity was glorified and people of every type and shape, every nationality and color, every occupation and avocation. We were what counted...we were what were important and we were the greatest of all subjects for the creative bounty of the top artistic minds on earth. Everything about humanity became the new fodder for the unique forms of communication produced by the writers prose, the poet's pentameter, and the painter's pigments. And glorified we were, as thousands of artists produced millions of images, often new and original, and the best of the best of these were masterpieces of the highest order.
What Modernists have done has been to aid and abet the destruction of the only universal language by which artists can communicate our humanity to the rest of ...well humanity. It has been a goal of mine for many years to expose the truth of modernist art history, and it is very much on topic to bring into question any practice which purports to analyze art history in a way that deliberately suppresses a valid and correct understanding of what actually happened. And it is of the utmost importance that the history of what actually took place not be lost for all time due to the transitory prejudice and tastes of a single era. This must be done if art history as a field of scholarship is not to be ultimately discovered to have devolved into nothing more than documents of propaganda; geared towards market enhancement for valuable collections passed down as wealth conserving stores of value. Successful dealers, who derived great wealth by selling such works...works created in hours instead of weeks... had little trouble lining up articulate masters of our language to build complex jargon presented everywhere as brilliant analysis. These market influenced treatises ensured the financial protection of these collections. Such "artspeak" as it has come to be known is a form of contrivance which uses self consciously complex and convoluted word combinations (babble) to impress, mesmerize and ultimately to silence the human instinct so that it cannot identify honestly what has been paraded before it. This is accomplished by brainwashing through authority, confounding the evidence of our senses that otherwise any sane person would question. The "authority" of high positions, and the "authority" of books and print, and the "authority" of certificates of accreditation attached to the names of the chief proponents of modernism, have all conspired to impress and humble those whose common sense would rise up in opposition to what would have been evident nonsense if it had emanated from the mouths and pens of anyone without such a preponderance of "authority" backing them up.
The best word describing this phenomenon is "prestige suggestion." Any time people or even product names hold the trappings and symbols of quality, value or expert authority, then people tend to see quality, value or importance due to those symbols. For example a wealthy consumer will see a purse with the name "Prada" or "Gucci" on it and will automatically assume value and quality. Perhaps the price will be $1800 and if it's on sale for $1200 she'll believe she got a good deal and be proud to wear it on her arm and show it to friends. Take the same bag without a label and try to sell it on a table on 42nd street with an $80 price tag and she just may think it's over priced and will try to get the price down perhaps to $40 if she'll buy it at all.The Prada name and the fact that it's being sold in Ber
| 30 August, 2013 12:17
Finally, finally finished "Tilehurst, Dorking", undoubtedly the most difficult painting I have ever attempted and a picture that seemed to be battling against me all the time. I began painting it in February 2013 and finished it today, August 30th 2013. There have been gaps, of course, and times when I simply couldn't bear to look at it - but then came a breakthrough and persistence won through. I'm just happy that it is done - but delighted with the result, too.
| 19 August, 2013 15:23
Continued to move 'eastwards 'along the canvas and paint in the detail beneath and to the right of the cedar tree.I am having a real problem, though, in that the acrylic inks tend to drip off the pen—and immediately penetrate my painting rag, apron and overall coat and straight down onto my trousers. I now have spots of paint on almost every pair I have, so obviously, I shall have to have a dedicated pair in the studio. A real pain!.
I added a few more branches to the right of the large, left hand tree—and then, disaster: somehow I managed to get two splodges of bright blue paint onto the background trees — and so had to re-paint them which took nearly an hour! Still, I kept going and having made the repairs made good progress—finishing the background. I then began painting in the stables and area ‘beneath’ the cedar tree. Enjoyed a good session and painting in more trees, which are now finishing, so amnow approaching the final stages of the painting—another eight days, perhaps before it is finished. It has been a long haul!, but then that is what I expected!
| 10 August, 2013 14:34
Making good progress now and four-fifths of the painting is complete. Unfortunately, other important tasks mean that I can now only paint for about two hours in the morning, so progress has been much slower than usual. Went for a walk today and passed the willow tree which is at the centre of the picture - and realized that I need to 'rough up' the edges of the willow clumps. They are too pristine and the tree doesn't grow like that - there are lots of willow strands poking out. So that is for tomorrow. Am very pleased with the way the colouring is going, too. The fun thing about this painting is that it is actually Spring (you can tell from the blossom) but many of the colours are autumnal. And why not? Artistic licence is often what makes a painting more interesting!
| 31 July, 2013 15:20
Having painted around the outline of the willow tree, I next began to paint the willow itself - a fairly difficul task which I tackled by first blocking in the rough lights and darks, then darkening the latter. I have now begun to 'soften' the transitions from light to dark with strands of medium greens. It is important here to figure out exactly how a willow tree grows, too; the branches don't just hang down, as I thought at first - they grow down in clumps. So, this is a good beginning but there is still a lot of work to do on the tree. It will be more than a week hence before I finish it because we have a big family birthday this weekend so will not have time before the 5th even to look at the painting. Pity because I was just getting into the swing of it - but the birthday should be a great family occasion, too!
| 29 July, 2013 18:19
I decided to paint around the outline of the willow tree to give me a better sense of depth. Today, I blocked in the willow tree and alreay it is beginning to stand out, pushing the house 'back' into the picture as intended. For the first time, I feel this painting - which I have had to fight all the way so far - has finally come into its own and is now beginning to take shape really well. So - I'm pleased!
| 18 July, 2013 14:02
Enjoyed another really good, painstaking session today and am now at a stage, having completed one-third of the picture, when I know that it will be a good result when finished. Just goes to show that persevering after a very poor start, when it seemed as if the painting was fighting me all the way, and after several long breaks when I just couldn't face it any more, ultimately pays off! Feeling really good about it now!
| 13 July, 2013 13:22
I am now - finally - back in the swing of painting again and although I am having to split my time with other jobs, so painting only half as much as I would normally - I am nonetheless making good progress with "Tilehurst". It is not a dissimilar painting to "Park Farm Cottages and the North Downs" althoughthe focus in this painting is on the variety of trees and the colours of them - all of which will be contrasted with a vivid yellow field of rape seed (eventually). So, I'm pleased and now feel, at last, that this will be achievable and potentially a very beautiful painting.
| 08 July, 2013 18:07
There is no specific definition of Hyperrealism and for this reason many artists, dealers, gallery and museum curators confuse the genre with Photorealism. Consequently, photorealist artists are often described as hyperrealists - and vice versa.
This uncertainty is partially due to the fact that the term 'Hyperrealisme' was first used in 1973 by Isy Brachot who gave the name to a major exhibition at his gallery in Brussels, Belgium.
However, 'Hyperrealisme' was a French word which actually referred to Photorealism and artists and dealers, particularly in Europe, have since used the word to describe painters influenced by the Photorealists”.
Photorealism evolved naturally from Pop Art in the United States during the late 1960s. By the mid 1970s, it had developed into a well- established art movement based on the use of photographs to create paintings that themselves appear to be photographic.
This new genre was subjected to massive criticism because the art world considered that the use of photographs and cameras was in some way 'cheating' - although artists dating back to Leonardo da Vinci - including Caneletto and Vermeer - had used the Camera Lucida and Camera Obscura from the fifteenth century onwards.
Because of this intense criticism, most if not all early artists availing themselves of visual devices did everything they could to hide the fact, and would deny using any form of camera or visual aid for fear that their work would be ridiculed and, worse, remain unsold.
But the fact remained that since the earliest cave painters, artists had always attempted to reproduce the realities seen by the human eye - and the advent of photography proved irresistible because the camera represented the easiest way to replicate such scenes - with incredibly accuracy.
It was, therefore, hardly surprising that eventually, artists should openly admit to using the camera and photographs - and mount convincing arguments as to why they should do so.
Realism, of course, was in itself an art movement of considerable importance in Art history, but the modernists and abstract expressionists of the 1950s ridiculed realism and the genre was all but sidelined.
That is why the early Photorealists turned their backs on Abstract Expressionism and instead turned to Pop Art for their influence. Both Pop Art and Photorealism were reactionary because they gloried in the plethora of photographic media , the manipulation of it which was creating new advances in imagery.
The photorealists specialised in immaculate precision, creating paintings that were such exact copies of every tiny detail in the original photographs, that their creations fooled the human eye into believing that they actually were photographs.
This style of painting concentrated on the mundane - American street scenes, buildings, traffic, everyday scenes . Because it was so precise, it called for exceptional skills and, as a result, tended to be mechanical and soulless.
Hyperrealism, on the other hand, evolved naturally from Photorealism - and is effectively an advancement of Photorealism. Hyperrealists used difference skills and techniques in duplicating photographs.
Firstly, they use photographs primarily as references. Whereas the Photorealist copied every detail, the Hyperrealist interprets what he sees in the reference photograph, or photographs. In this way, the Hyperrealist is able to introduce narrative, charm and emotion into their paintings - which from a distance may well look like photographs but which when examined more closely are clearly nothing of the sort.
Thus, the term "Hyperrealism" is today rimarily applied to a new. independent art movement and art style that emerged in the United States and Europe in the early 2000s.
The Encyclopaedia Britannica defines Hyperrealism as an “American art movement that began in the 1960s, taking photography as its inspiration." This is clearly wrong. Wikipedia points out, correctly, that "Hyperrealist painters and sculptors use photographic images as a reference source from which to create a more definitive and detailed rendering, one that unlike Photorealism, often is narrative and emotive in its depictions.
"Hyperrealism", it adds, "can often entail a softer and much more complex focus on the subject depicted, presenting it as a living tangible object. These objects and scenes in Hyperrealism paintings and sculptures are meticulously detailed to create the illusion of a new reality not seen in the original photo. That is not to say that they are surreal, as the illusion is a convincing depiction of (simulated) reality. Textures, surfaces, lighting effects and shadows are painted to appear clearer and more distinct than the reference photo or even the actual subject itself”.
So, the true hyperrealist is no mere copyist. He or she realises that there is little point in merely reproducing a photograph as a painting and asks: why not merely print the original photograph larger?
Instead, the hyperrealist interprets the reference photograph - or in many cases multiple reference photographs - and with the use of artistic licence, and specific and highly individualistic techniques of colouring and detailing, is able to add charm, emotion and 'soul' to his paintings, thus giving to his works a mystical, even magical quality that simply does not exist in photorealistic paintings. It is for this reason that hyperrealism is considered an advancement on photorealism
| 06 July, 2013 15:26
This painting seems to have been fighting me all the way, but after a second lengthy rest from it - during which I had no heart for it - I finally knuckled down, still daunted by the task ahead but feeling more confident now. Made reasonable progress but still have a lot to do to the left of and below the tree before I can move east along the canvas.At least now I have no other serious commitments (other than one day) so should be able to make progress. Lt's hope so!!!
| 05 July, 2013 15:50
Click on this link to see a full ten-page cover spread on my artworks in Visual Language Magazine
| 03 June, 2013 14:54
Resumed painting after a long break and having been somewhat disheartened by my previous attempts at this painting. I made an horrendous mess of it, and didn't know how to repair it - hence the break. Now, I have repainted a whole section of it and finally am making some progress, albeit very slow.
"Tilehurst" is without doubt the most difficult painting I have yet attempted, with all kinds of challenges yet to be met. But if things go well, it shoud be a really beautiful painting. It will require a huge amount of patience and I will have to put aside all thoughts of other pictures I have bubbling around in my mind and that I want eventually to paint.
So, concentration, concentration, concentration—and an unsurpassed resoluteness, I fear.
Still, I made useful progress today, painting in ‘body’ in the upper parts of the tree, accentuating branches coming in from left of frame , diffusing the colour of the car, giving more life to the background bushes and beginning to paint the trunk and main branches of the tree (which will eventually be the main, far left tree in the painting ).
Search this blog:
Calendar Of Posts
- THE LAST MILE HOME
- 3rd PRIZE, 2014 AMERICAN ART AWARDS, REALISM-LANDSCAPE CATEGORY
- 1ST PRIZE EAC WORLDWIDE ART AWARDS
- WHY REALISM? by Frederick Ross.
- "Tilehurst, Dorking" - the finished painting after six month's work!
- Final stages of my painting "Tilehurst, Dorking".
- "Tilehurst, Dorking 4/5ths complete.
- Tackling the Willow Tree
- Tilehurst, Dorking - half way through the painting, maybe a little more!
- "Tilehurst" painting progressing really well, now!