Realism is back. Realistic, or representational, art fell out of favor with the advent of photography, but today's painters and sculptors are reviving old techniques and giving reality a whole new spin.
"All the Sheep Came to the Party," Pastel on Board, 1997, by Helen J. Vaughn (Cropped). Photo by Helen J. Vaughn / GettyImages
While modern-day ideas and technologies have infused energy into the Realism movement, traditional approaches never went away. In the mid-20th century, followers of scholar and painter Jacques Maroger (1884-1962) experimented with historic paint mediums to replicate the trompe l'oeil realism of the Old Masters.
Maroger's movement was just one of many that promoted traditional aesthetics and techniques. Various ateliers, or private workshops, continue to emphasize mastery and an age-old vision of beauty. Through teaching and scholarship, organizations like the Art Renewal Center and the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art steer clear of modernism and advocate for historic values.
Traditional Realism is straightforward and detached.The painter or sculptor exercises artistic skill without experimentation, exaggeration, or hidden meanings. Abstraction, absurdity, irony, and wit do not play a role because Traditional Realism values beauty and precision above personal expression.
Encompassing Classical Realism, Academic Realism, and Contemporary Realism, the movement has been called reactionary and retro. However, Traditional Realism is widely represented in fine art galleries as well as commercial outlets such as advertising and book illustration. Traditional Realism is also the favored approach for presidential portraits, commemorative statues, and similar types of public art.
Among the many notable artists who paint in a traditional representational style are Douglas Hofmann, Juan Lascano, Jeremy Lipkin, Adam Miller, Gregory Mortenson, Helen J. Vaughn, Evan Wilson, and David Zuccarini.
Sculptors to watch for include Nina Akamu, Nilda Maria Comas, James Earl Reid, and Lei Yixin.
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