Why Realism?

The Old Meathouse, Spring Valley Station

                         The Old Meathouse, Spring Valley Station

Why Realism?

This is the 2014 Artists Keynote Address by Frederick Ross on the theme “Building on the Classics”. On reading through this I thought it is so pertinent and enlightening given the STATE of the ARTS today, that I will forward his whole address, in small chunks, over the next several blogs. It poses some very interesting questions.

(Fred Ross is currently Chairman of the Art Renewal Center, and has been published or interviewed in the American Arts Quarterly, the California Art Club, Forbes Magazine, Artnews, New Jersey Monthly, the Victorian Society in America, and the Classical Realist Journal. He has been a featured speaker at Sotheby’s, the Dahesh Museum, the Wadsworth Atheneum, and University of Memphis. He holds a Master’s in Art Education from Columbia University, and along with his wife Sherry owns one of the foremost collections of 19th Century European paintings.)

“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.”

So Why Realism indeed…………..

(to be continued………)