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Reign of modernism will end in 21st century, critics contend
The Art Renewal Center ^ | Originally printed on Sunday the 29th of October, 2000. | Robert McCain

Posted on 01/20/2003 8:53:41 AM PST by vannrox

Reign of modernism will end in 21st century, critics contend




rt in the 21st century will draw its inspiration from traditions that were largely neglected during modernism's 20th-century heyday, say artists, critics and collectors who advocate a return of classical ideals.


"I look at modern art as very much like what happened with communism - it was an idea that was a house of cards and couldn't work," says Allan Banks, president of the American Society of Classical Realism and vice chairman of the American Society of Portrait Artists.


"A lot of the rubbish that we've been handed (in the 20th century) has pretty much played itself out," Mr. Banks says. "I think you're finding generations of (artists) who are really interested in getting back to discipline and tradition."


While American artists are enjoying this return to tradition -- Mr. Banks says leading portrait painters now report being "booked two and three years advance" -- public tastes have likewise turned toward the traditional.


There is renewed interest in 19th-century artists such as The Pre-Raphaelites -- a movement begun in England in 1848 by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and others -- as well as later Victorian painters like John William Waterhouse and neo-classical artists like Sir Lawrence Alma- Tadema.


Canadian artist Jonathon Bowser says such artists were long ignored by educators.


"Those Victorian painters were swept under the rug -- we didn't learn about them in art school," says Mr. Bowser, who specializes in landscapes and fantasy paintings in a style he calls "mythic naturalism."


Mr. Bowser says he believes "art should speak to the universal human condition."


"Modernism, by definition, cannot be universal, because if you're not conversant with the lexicon, you're not invited to the debate."


Nothing exemplifies art's turn toward tradition as much as the revived interest in William- Adolphe Bouguereau, the 19th-century master of the Ecole de Beaux Arts in Paris.


Bouguereau's carefully finished mythological scenes and romantic genre paintings were attacked as "sentimental" by admirers of the Impressionists, and later critics relegated him to the role of a villain in the story of modern art's triumph.


Modern critics are unreserved in their scorn for Bouguereau. The New York Times denounced him as "bland and boring" when his paintings were exhibited in Hartford, Conn., in 1984. Six years ago, the Christian Science Monitor sneered at Bouguereau's work as "official art" that was mostly "purchased by rich, undereducated Americans."


But his work has risen sharply in value in recent years. Bouguereau's painting At the Fountain, displayed for years in an Evanston, Ill., library, was appraised at $100,000 in 1992. Auctioned last year by Sotheby's, it sold for $900,000. An auctioneer from Sotheby's called the Bouguereau a "show stopper."


Critics may still sneer but, as the London Daily Telegraph admitted in 1997, "Bouguereau is among the few painters who has become ever dearer ... as the rest of the market slumps."


Among the collectors of Bouguereau's work is actor Sylvester Stallone. In May, Bouguereau's Charity' sold for $3,528,000 -- the most ever paid for one of his paintings, eclipsing the $2.6 million paid for his Alma Parens in 1998.


Among Bouguereau's most enthusiastic admirers is collector and critic Fred Ross.


Bouguereau is "the greatest painter in the history of the world," says Mr. Ross, a New Jersey businessman who has founded the Art Renewal Center, dedicated to encouraging artists in what he calls the "humanist" tradition.


"We have to go back to where art was at its peak and build from there," says Mr. Ross, who locates that peak prior to the 20th century: "Real art is about life. Modern art is art about art. It's about 'pushing the envelope.' It's about time somebody stamped that envelope 'return to sender.' "


The revival of traditional art owes much to Boston painter R.H. Ives Gammell, who trained dozens of artists before his death in 1981. Mr. Gammell felt the need to pass along the tradition he had absorbed from his mentor, William Paxton, who had been a student of Jean- Léon Gérôme, who in turn studied under the French master Jacques-Louis David.


Mr. Gammell "woke up one day and realized that this tradition was not being passed on," says Mr. Banks, who studied under Mr. Gammell. "He took it upon himself to teach a handful of students at a time and worked with them from scratch."


Those efforts, along with Mr. Gammell's 1946 book, Twilight of Painting, helped spur a traditionalist movement that has grown steadily in recent decades, though with little recognition from established art critics. The hostility of art critics is a pet peeve of traditionalists.


"We have put our artistic culture into the hands of philistines and I'm just trying to find a jawbone of an ass," says Mr. Ross, referring to the Israelite hero Samson's feat against the original Philistines.


Though most people prefer traditional art, the opinions of critics prop up the reputation of modern art, he says.


"Real people will reject modernism every time, if they're given a context that justifies the feelings they've always had," Mr. Ross says, likening modern art's critical hegemony to "the emperor's new clothes."


One artist who bemoaned the influence of modernism in art was the late sculptor Frederick Hart.


"Art is a dying force in public life," said Mr. Hart, whose Ex Nihilo at the National Cathedral is perhaps his most famous work. "It is now in the world of art as a cult, where you have to know the peculiarities, the rites, and that makes art meaningless to the vast majority of people."


It is not corporations, but a generation of enthusiastic young amateurs who have created a burgeoning Internet universe devoted to promoting traditional art.


Iian Neill experienced "the iron grip of modernism" while an art student.


"A couple of years ago ... I realized that fine -- and unjustly maligned -- artists like Bouguereau, Gérôme and Alma-Tadema were excluded from our art galleries, museums, textbooks and university courses due to the iron grip of modernism," says Mr. Neill, an Australian whose Renaissance Café site features an extensive gallery of works by 19th- century artists.


Alan Linh Do of Frederick, Md., set up his Web site devoted to English painter John William Waterhouse after he became "hooked" on the artist's portrayals of Arthurian legend.


"I am hoping to help revive the interest in classical art through Waterhouse," says Mr. Do, a recent graduate of Drexel University in Philadelphia.


Last year, he visited England to view the paintings of Waterhouse and other Victorian artists. "These works are classics and unbelievably stunning up close. I was extremely emotional when I saw those of Waterhouse," Mr. Do says.


Valerie L. Criswell, an Internet consultant from South Carolina, "first became aware of the Pre-Raphaelite art movement when I took a course on Victorian history while in college," she says.


"There are close ties between historical periods and the art that is born from them," Mrs. Criswell says of the inspiration for her Nouveau Net site. "The fusion of Victorian ideals into Pre-Raphaelite art captivated me.


"The art clearly demonstrates the Victorians' struggle between religious morality and innate human sensuality."


The combination of Internet technology and traditional art has proven potent, according to Mr. Banks.


"Now we are seeing, with the computer, we are finding that a lot of (traditional artists) are able to communicate," says the painter, who notes he has received inquiries from artists as far away as Spain and Taiwan. "I think it's going to be a major factor in bringing people together."


"The Internet is the greatest thing," agrees Mr. Ross, whose Internet connection allowed him to reach as far as Australia to hire Mr. Neill to design the Art Renewal Center's Web site.


Mr. Ross says he hopes to revive the 19th-century tradition of the Paris salons, "a competition between the greatest artists in the world."


He is working with sponsors, galleries and museums to develop a series of annual salons he hopes to begin as early as next year.


"My goal," Mr. Ross says, "is to build this as the focal point upon which a movement for renewal can be built."




Reprinted with the kind permission of The Washington Times, and was originally printed on Sunday, the 29th of October, 2000.

Reprinted with the kind permission of The Washington Times, and was originally printed on Sunday, the 29th of October, 2000.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; Foreign Affairs; Government; News/Current Events; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: art; classic; critic; modernism; new; opinion; painter
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I agree with this appraisal.
1 posted on 01/20/2003 8:53:41 AM PST by vannrox
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2 posted on 01/20/2003 8:55:19 AM PST by Support Free Republic (Your support keeps Free Republic going strong!)
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To: vannrox
Bouguereau, "A la fontaine"
3 posted on 01/20/2003 8:59:28 AM PST by denydenydeny
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To: vannrox
What, no more art made from fecal matter?
4 posted on 01/20/2003 9:01:54 AM PST by NewHampshireDuo
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To: vannrox
One can only hope..
5 posted on 01/20/2003 9:04:49 AM PST by AntiGuv ()
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To: vannrox
Read "The Nake Communist". Among the stated goals of communism is to replace traditional art with ugly shapeless garbage and then tell the people that they were stupid for not seeing the "artisty" of a jar of urine with a crusifix immersed within.

Check out this link for some REAL art:

http://www.artrenewal.org/index.html

6 posted on 01/20/2003 9:07:55 AM PST by Blood of Tyrants (At least one patient dies in every abortion.)
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To: vannrox
"I look at modern art as very much like what happened with communism - it was an idea that was a house of cards and couldn't work," says Allan Banks, president of the American Society of Classical Realism and vice chairman of the American Society of Portrait Artists."

What a great remark.

Two Victorian painters I like are Thomas Eakins and Dagnan Bouveret - both swam against the tide, were "realists."

Eakins

7 posted on 01/20/2003 9:08:08 AM PST by Sam Cree
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To: vannrox
"I look at modern art as very much like what happened with communism - it was an idea that was a house of cards and couldn't work," says Allan Banks, president of the American Society of Classical Realism and vice chairman of the American Society of Portrait Artists.

"A lot of the rubbish that we've been handed (in the 20th century) has pretty much played itself out," ...

That is Wonderful News to those of us who love art. Art should be communicative, something that is grasped by the common person, not a cipher of artist narssicism.

8 posted on 01/20/2003 9:08:45 AM PST by happygrl
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To: vannrox
Thank God.

Smeared feces is not art, no matter what the inspiration is.
Neither is an empty room with a light blinking on and off.
Same goes for a room filled with cheese.
Placing objects in jars of urine or hangins sexual aids from strings inside libraries isn't art.
Mutilating yourself isn't art, it is sick. If anyone else without 'artist' as an occupation did that, they would be put into a 'facility' to undergo observation for mental illness.
If my 3yr old can reproduce your work, I can not take your or your 'pieces of art' seriously.
If I go into a junkyard and pull out scrap metal that looks like something that is in front of a building, that isn't art either.
If you make an everyday object 1000 times its normal size or make it 1000 times smaller than normal, it might be neat or interesting as a second rate tourist spot, but it isn't art.

OK, I am done ranting...

9 posted on 01/20/2003 9:09:06 AM PST by cdefreese ("Excuse me sir. Is that art or did you not make it to the restroom in time.")
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To: vannrox
ead later
10 posted on 01/20/2003 9:11:13 AM PST by LiteKeeper
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To: vannrox

At the Fountain
by William Bouguereau
11 posted on 01/20/2003 9:16:36 AM PST by dennisw (http://www.littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/weblog.php)
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To: Sam Cree

Eakins

12 posted on 01/20/2003 9:23:57 AM PST by Sam Cree
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To: vannrox
Now that's art.

Lord Leighton bump.

13 posted on 01/20/2003 9:25:11 AM PST by B-Chan (Professional illustrator and designer)
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To: vannrox
I like sacred art and am especially drawn Botticelli. To me his paintings have a magical and joyful quality. Here is what G.K Chesterton said about The Nativity of Botticelli

Do you blame me that I sit hours before this picture?
But if I walked all over the world in this time
I should hardly see anything worth seeing that is not in this picture.

I believe Botticelli was a contemporary of Michaelangelo who said:

It is not sufficient merely to be a great master in painting and very wise, but I think it is necessary for the painter to be very good in his mode of life, or even, if such were possible, a saint, so that the Holy Spirit my inspire his intellect..."

14 posted on 01/20/2003 9:25:28 AM PST by Nubbin
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To: vannrox
Dates and catagories are not the most descriptive means to convey ideas about a school or movement. Ok. Modernism began in the last third of the of the 19th century. If you like you may pin the date to the Salon d Refuse in 1863. Modernism was supplanted by Post-modernism in say 1945 by artists such as Pollack & Bill Monroe. I'm not endorsing either movement.

By the way, be careful about referring to art currently being produced as modern art which denotes a particular period of history; contemperory art is preferred.

Non-Objective art is preferred to abstract art.

Perhaps I should have studied art history instead of economics in school so I could prvide more detail; alas aesthetics is an avocation.
15 posted on 01/20/2003 9:35:27 AM PST by society-by-contract
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To: B-Chan
For many years I have thought that the "Commercial Artist" was far superior to "Pop Artists" or "Modernists". Those who learn the craft of drawing and painting and have talent, deserve the title "Artist". With inspiration, it is these gifted people that truly "create" art. The Modernists are merely making trash or recycling it.
16 posted on 01/20/2003 9:57:34 AM PST by elbucko (IF Liddy is right, then "Mo" Dean is Deep Throat.)
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To: vannrox
I know a fair number of Neo-Pagans types with leftish to hard-left politics, who go adore Pre-Raphaelite art. If modernism is losing the left, it's dead.
17 posted on 01/20/2003 9:58:02 AM PST by Celtjew Libertarian
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To: vannrox
Thanks for this article. So many times as I've walked through *modern* art exhibits and musuems, I've thought, "The emperor really does have no clothes". It was all nonsense, that evoked nothing but wonder reading the convulated critical praise of such....nothing. But like the emperor's crowd, we were all supposed to marvel at it, for fear of being called bourgeoise and anti-intellectual.
18 posted on 01/20/2003 10:06:37 AM PST by xJones
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To: Blood of Tyrants
Among the stated goals of communism is to replace traditional art with ugly shapeless garbage

Some wasn't so bad ;-)

19 posted on 01/20/2003 10:48:32 AM PST by struwwelpeter
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To: vannrox
It's happening to the music industry, they just don't realize it yet.
20 posted on 01/20/2003 10:54:43 AM PST by mpreston
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