Realism in portraiture

This story, Doctinaire & Proud of It, from the New York Sun is worth reading. Though not a fan of such formal portraiture myself, I must admit I’m glad a forceful contingent exists to keep the practice from dying. From the article:

    In May 1961, some brash young figurative painters threw down the gauntlet to the modern art establishment. In an exhibition at the National Arts Club called “A Realist View,” a group including Aaron Shikler, Daniel Schwartz, Harvey Dinnerstein, Burt Silverman, and David Levine declared their opposition to the trend toward abstraction in modern art. The abandonment of tradition in favor of personal style and individual expression had led to the impoverishment of the artist’s imagination, Mr. Silverman declared in a “Statement by the Artists.” “In our paintings we have not succumbed to the frantic search for something ‘new,'” he continued. “We are not concerned with being ‘of our times’…. Our concern is with the world around us.”

    Their protest against the apotheosis of Abstract Expressionism did not go unheeded; they were critically trounced. “[I]t’s the quietest, oldest show you ever saw,” the New York Herald Tribune’s critic, Emily Genauer, wrote. “Nowhere are there fire, urgency, even innocence, the conviction that there are new things and new ideas in the world …. What showed in the paintings — apart from craft — was chiefly doctrinaire attitude.”

The class recently had retired Supreme Court Justic Sandra Day O’Conner sit for them. Her sitting was filmed by Neil Leifer, formerly of Time Magazine. The sitting was set up by Pulitzer Prize-winning David Hume, who took this photograph during the class:


About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at

One Response to Realism in portraiture

  1. Interesting blog, keep up the good work.

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