In 1968 Henry Hope Reed created Classical America, which is now called the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art. At that time, he had in mind the many ways our nation exhibited a classical heritage in art, architecture, political philosophy, and general cultural values. In the early years the organization did focus on architecture almost exclusively but today the organization has come to embrace the classical tradition more broadly. They have grown from a small New York core with a budding branch in Philadelphia, to a national organization with 15 chapters around the country and can now say that the New American Renaissance is underway.
The Philadelphia chapter has designed a program of recognition for individuals and organizations of various sorts who embody Henry’s vision of renewal and growth in the classical tradition of America called “The Golden Reed,” recalling Henry’s seminal book The Golden City.
This year the award went to Lorraine Reisenbach, Director of Artists House Gallery for her successful, commendable work over the years “to introduce, nurture, and mentor outstanding emerging artists in the best of Western tradition.” This amazing work from the current exhibition Young Visions.
Still Life by Evan Schukis
In the history of American architecture and the arts, the American Renaissance was the period from 1876–1917 which was characterized by renewed national self-confidence and a feeling that the United States was the heir to Greek democracy, Roman law, and Renaissance humanism. It expressed its self-confidence in new technologies, such as the wire cables of the Brooklyn Bridge in New York. It found its cultural outlets in both Prairie School houses and in Beaux-Arts architecture and sculpture, in the “City Beautiful” movement, and “also the creation of the American empire.” Politically and economically, this era coincides with the Gilded Age.
The classical architecture of the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, 1893, was a demonstration that impressed Henry Adams, who wrote that people “would some day talk about Hunt and Richardson, La Farge and Saint-Gaudens, Burnham and McKim and Stanford White when their politicians and millionaires were quite forgotten.”
In the dome of the reading room at the Library of Congress, Edwin Blashfield’s murals were on the given theme, The Progress of Civilization.
Here is a link to a post I did after visiting the magnificent Library of Congress.
Today’s Classical Realism is characterized by love for the visible world and the great traditions of Western art, including Classicism, Realism and Impressionism. The movement’s aesthetic is Classical in that it exhibits a preference for order, beauty, harmony and completeness; it is Realist because its primary subject matter comes from the representation of nature based on the artist’s observation. Artists in this genre strive to draw and paint from the direct observation of nature, and eschew the use of photography or other mechanical aids. In this regard, Classical Realism differs from the art movements of Photorealism and Hyperrealism. Stylistically, classical realists employ methods used by both Impressionist and Academic artists.
Classical Realist painters have attempted to restore curricula of training that develop a sensitive, artistic eye and methods of representing nature that pre-date Modern Art. They seek to create paintings that are personal, expressive, beautiful, and skillful. Their subject matter includes all of the traditional categories within Western Art: figurative, landscape, portraiture, indoor and outdoor genre and still life paintings.
A central idea of Classical Realism is the belief that the Modern Art movements of the 20th century opposed the tenets and production of traditional art and caused a general loss of the skills and methods needed to produce it. Modernism was antagonistic to art as it was conceived by the Greeks, resurrected in the Renaissance, and carried on by the academies of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Classical Realist artists attempt to revive the idea of art production as it was traditionally understood: mastery of a craft in order to make objects that gratify and ennoble those who see them. This craftsmanship is then applied to drawing, painting or sculpting contemporary subjects which the artist observes in the modern world.
Gandy Gallery of Contemporary Classical Realists
Paul S. Brown, Classical Realist
Jacob Collins (born 1964) is an American realist painter working in New York, NY. He is a leading figure of the contemporary classical art revival.
Interesting article The Contemporary Realist Movement.
“….contemporary realists felt mankind was best served by depicting through art, the qualities in life that unite us as people, rather than the debasement of civilization.
Nothing says more about a culture than the art it idolizes. Art represents what a culture values, what its people think about, and essentially what they deem worth remembering. Art is the representation of a people, encapsulating their essence on every level.”
Max Ginsburg, Foreclosure
Promise of Renewal
“Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.”
Henry Ward Beecher, Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit, 1887
US abolitionist & clergyman (1813 – 1887)
The Internet has become the most important tool for the realist movement. It allowed the movement to gain serious traction about 10 years ago by linking like-minded people together, enabling them to find each other and promote their thoughts to others.
Through groups such as good GoodArt, the Art Renewal Center (A.R.C.) which was founded as a center for Realism. It became the largest online museum and the only one at that time dedicated to traditional art.
ARC searched out the remaining few atelier schools that still used the training methods of the old masters. Finding only 14 in existence at that time, with less than 200 students, ARC advertised them to the public.
Since that time, the atelier schools have grown dramatically, with more and more created every year. On the Art Renewal website, 72 atelier schools and workshops are now listed, with many times the number of students, and more are out there that are not listed.
Magazines now exist that are dedicated to Realism, such as Fine Art Connoisseur, Plein Air, Artist Advocate, American Arts Quarterly, Art of the West, and others.
Head instructor of the Ani Art Academy Waichulis, Anthony Waichulis, says: “Over the past few years, I have found that applications and program inquiries have increased tenfold. It seems that this ever-growing resurgence in Realism is encouraging new aspiring artists to enthusiastically pursue fundamental skill building on a scale I have not seen before.
“This is truly a wonderful thing, as I believe that effective education is one of the most powerful tools we have to shape the future,” he said.
These groups are all united, figuratively if not literally, in their goal to bring realist painting, drawing, and sculpture back to the forefront of contemporary art
The atelier schools are the foundation of the movement. They are the source of the proper training that is denied in most university and college art curriculums.
James Oliver wrote: “I am an artist who has been disenchanted with the art world to such a degree that I have pursued a science education instead. I think this site is the first real indication that the madness is beginning to clear as humankind rediscovers the beautiful.”
“As an artist and teacher, I believe that the future will only be possible if we infuse the arts back where they always belonged, at the heart of human education,” Jean Corbeil wrote.”
Scagliola has been a mystery outside the decorative arts realm. There are only few people who are familiar with the art of Scagliola, a fascinating and special technique, that uses natural components, managing to render perfectly valuable materials, such as marble, and other natural and semi-precious stones. Today scagliola is becoming a high-end favorite being used for vases, staircases, columns, countertops and table tops. Beautiful blends of pigment and plaster are assuming forms and functions unavailable even to their stone-age ancestors.
Scagliola Columns in the Willard Hotel, Washington, DC
History of Scagliola
The first examples of scagliola were created in Roman times from selenite, which derives from a gypsum stone found in Italy’s Appennine Mountains. Italian monks honed the technique in the 17th century.
16th Century Scagliola Tabletop.
In the United States, scagliola was widely used from the mid-1800s to the 1930s, in elaborate churches, capitol buildings and theaters for large columns, wall cladding, pilasters and door surrounds.
Black scagliola door portals
The appeal then as now was the amount of marble demanded for such massive works would have been prohibitively expensive, if available at all. Scagliola looks like natural marble and is just as durable, but it is less expensive and can be formulated in a limitless range of colors and textures. William Millar wrote more than a century ago in Plastering, Plain and Decorative; “Experience has proved that it will last as long as the house it adorns, and with an occasional cleaning, it will always retain its polish and beauty.” It is these qualities that have refocused interest in scagliola. Although less expensive than marble, scagliola projects are labor intensive and highly specialized. The finest results demand historical knowledge, technical excellence in fabricating the material, and the trained eye and hand of the decorative artist.
However, all art historians mention that the art of Scagliola was never only used as an economical alternative, in order to replace valuable materials. On the contrary, it has emerged as an extremely valuable art through the centuries, with masterpieces highly appreciated by kings and rulers of that time. Respectively, nowadays the works of Scagliola are highly appreciated as works of great artistic value, as can be seen in galleries, auctions and in the world artistic market in general.
This fireplace is so incredible.
Pietro Antonio Paolini table top 1735
The traditional European technique uses lumps of a doughy mixture with mineral pigment for veinng. More common is the marezzo technique, which employs an almost-liquid mixture and raw silk fiber for veining. Marezzo is sometimes known as American Marezzo because of its popularity in the United States. While the mixture varies for each installation, the process is similar.
Traditional European Technique
First, precise molds of the object are created. Then a basic scagliola recipe is produced. This usually includes some combination of gypsum plaster, hydrostone, Keens cement, and mineral pigments to achieve the desired tint. Artisans then work in the raw silk fiber to create veining and cast the dougly mixture into molds. Once the scagliola has hardened, grinding and polishing begin. Hand polishing takes over several weeks, using water and a fine grade of sandpaper. The surface is buffed with aluminum oxide and coated with a surface-enhancing sealant called carnauba wax for protection.
Scagliola Fireplace by Wells Vissar for Tavern on the Green, New York
Stone Age Designs
Scagliola Tables by Galleria Romanelli