Classical Realism

Classical Realism refers to an artistic movement in late-20th and early 21st century in which drawing and painting place a high value upon skill and beauty, combining elements of 19th-century neoclassicism and realism.

Academy of Classical Design ~ Cast Hall
Academy of Classical Design, Cast Studio - Southern Pines, NC.


Jean-Leon Gerome Pollice Verso
Jean-Léon Gérôme. Pollice Verso (1872). Classical Realism traces its lineage from Gérôme.

The term "Classical Realism" first appeared as a description of literary style, as in an 1882 criticism of Milton's poetry.[1] Its usage relating to the visual arts dates back to at least 1905 in a reference to Masaccio's paintings.[2] It originated as the title of a contemporary but traditional artistic movement with Richard Lack (1928–2009), who was a pupil of Boston artist R. H. Ives Gammell (1893–1981) during the early 1950s. Ives Gammell had studied with William McGregor Paxton (1869–1941) and Paxton had studied with 19th-century French artist, Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824–1904). In 1967 Lack established Atelier Lack, a studio-school of fine art patterned after the ateliers of 19th-century Paris and the teaching of the Boston impressionists. By 1980 he had trained a significant group of young painters. In 1982, they organized a traveling exhibition of their work and that of other artists within the artistic tradition represented by Gammell, Lack and their students. Lack was asked by Vern Swanson, director of the Springville Museum of Art, Springville, Utah, (the exhibition's originating venue), to coin a term that would differentiate the realism of the heirs of the Boston tradition from that of other representational artists. Although he was reluctant to label this work, Lack chose the expression "Classical Realism." It was first used in the title of that exhibition: Classical Realism: The Other Twentieth Century. The term, "Classical Realism", was originally intended to describe work that combined the fine drawing and design of the European academic tradition as exemplified by Gérôme with the observed color values of the American Boston tradition as exemplified by Paxton.

In 1985 Atelier Lack began publishing the Classical Realism Quarterly, featuring articles written by Richard Lack and his students to educate and inform the public about traditional representational painting. In 1988 Lack and several associates founded The American Society of Classical Realism, a society organized to preserve and promote fine representational art. The ASCR functioned until 2005 and published the influential Classical Realism Journal and Classical Realism Newsletter.

In a separate vein, another major contributor to the revival of traditional drawing and painting knowledge is the painter and art instructor Ted Seth Jacobs (born 1927), who taught students at the Art Students League and the New York Academy of Art in New York City.[3] Their lineage is rooted in the Académie Julian, the Golden Age of Illustration in New York, and the School of Paris. In 1987 Ted Seth Jacobs created his own art school, L'Ecole Albert Defois in Les Cerqueux sous Passavant, France (49). Many of Jacobs' students such as Anthony Ryder and Jacob Collins became influential teachers and acquired their own student following.[4]

Style and philosophy

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.[5] 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.[6] 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.[7] This craftsmanship is then applied to drawing, painting or sculpting contemporary subjects which the artist observes in the modern world.

Like the 19th-century academic models from which it derives inspiration, the movement has drawn criticism for the premium placed upon technical performance, a tendency toward contrived and idealized depictions of the figure, and rhetorical overstatement when applied to epic narrative.[6] Maureen Mullarkey of the New York Sun referred to the school as "a contemporary style with retro appeal—like Chrysler's PT Cruiser".[8]


The Classical Realist movement is currently sustained through art schools based on the Atelier Method. Many present-day academies and ateliers follow the Charles Bargue drawing course. Richard Lack is generally regarded as the founder of the contemporary atelier movement. His school, Atelier Lack, was founded in 1969 and became a model for similar schools.[9] These modern ateliers are founded with the goal of revitalizing art education by reintroducing rigorous training in traditional drawing and painting techniques, employing teaching methodologies that were used in the École des Beaux-Arts. These schools pass on a method of instruction which melds formal academic art training with the influence of the French Impressionists.

Under the atelier model, art students study in the studio of an established master to learn how to draw and paint with realistic accuracy and an emphasis on rendering form convincingly. The foundation of these programs rests on an intensive study of the human figure, renderings of plaster casts of classical sculpture, and the emulation of their instructors. The goal is to make students adept at observation, theory, and craft while absorbing classical ideals of beauty.[9]

Atelier schools

Atelier schools founded in this tradition include (in chronological order of founding):

Notable artists


  1. ^ S. Birch, The Educational Times. Vol. 35, No. 249, January 1, 1882, page 294.
  2. ^ Mahler, Arthur; Blacker; Carlos; Slater, William Albert. Paintings of the Louvre, Italian and Spanish, Doubleday, 1905, page 26.
  3. ^ Jacobs, Ted Seth. Light for the Artist, Watson-Guptill Pubns (June 1988), ISBN 0-8230-2768-6.
  4. ^ Ryder, Anthony. The Artist's Complete Guide to Figure Drawing: A Contemporary Perspective on the Classical Tradition, Watson-Guptill; 1st edition (June 1, 1999), ISBN 0-8230-0303-5.
  5. ^ Gjertson, Stephen. Richard F. Lack: An American Master, American Society of Classical Realism: 2001, ISBN 0-9636180-3-2.
  6. ^ a b Panero, James (September 2006). "The New Old School". The New Criterion. Vol. 25. p. 104.
  7. ^ Kimball, Roger: "Why the Art World Is a Disaster", The New Criterion, Volume 25, June 2007, page 4.
  8. ^ Maureen Mullarkey (October 12, 2006). "Nothing Left To Hide". New York Sun. Retrieved November 30, 2017.
  9. ^ a b Aristedes, Juliette. Classical Drawing Atelier: A Contemporary Guide to Traditional Studio Practice, Watson-Guptill Publications: 2006. ISBN 0-8230-0657-3

External links

Angel Metodiev

Angel Metodiev (Angel Metodiev Angelov, Bulgarian: Ангел Методиев Ангелов) (16 March 1921- 29 April 1984) was a Bulgarian fine art painter (Classical Realism) and teacher. He was particularly famous for his portraits, nudes and landscapes.

Australian philosophy

Australian philosophy refers to the philosophical tradition of the people of Australia and of its citizens abroad.

Classical realism (international relations)

Classical realism is a theory of international relations established in the post-World War II era that seeks to explain international politics as a result of human nature. The theory is associated with thinkers such as Niccolò Machiavelli and Thomas Hobbes. Modern thinkers associated with classical realism are Carl von Clausewitz, Hans Morgenthau and Reinhold Niebuhr. Classical realist thought has since been overshadowed by neorealism after Kenneth Waltz's work became more widely accepted due to the rise of structuralism in North American international relations scholarship which favored the latter's emphasis on rationality rather than human nature as cause for political conflict.

D. Jeffrey Mims

D. Jeffrey Mims is a painter, educator, lecturer, and muralist working as a classical realist.

Mims attended the Rhode Island School of Design and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. In 1976, he received a Greenshields Foundation grant to support independent study in the museums of England, France, and Italy and in 1981 returned to Florence, Italy where he studied with the American painter Benjamin F. Long. For over a decade, he maintained studios in Italy and the US, during which time he executed both easel and public mural paintings. In recognition for his work in traditional fresco painting, Classical America presented Mims with an Arthur Ross Award in 1984 for ‘excellence and integrity in the application of classical ideals’. He was awarded an Affiliated Fellowship at the American Academy in Rome in 2009 from The Institute of Classical Architecture and Art. Mims has lectured on historic collaborations between artists and architects for, among other organizations, the ICAA and the University of Notre Dame.

Danish philosophy

Danish philosophy has a long tradition as part of Western philosophy.

Perhaps the most influential Danish philosopher was Søren Kierkegaard, the creator of Christian existentialism, which inspired the philosophical movement of Existentialism. Kierkegaard had a few Danish followers, including Harald Høffding, who later in his life moved on to join the movement of positivism. Among Kierkegaard's other followers include Jean-Paul Sartre who was impressed with Kierkegaard's views on the individual, and Rollo May, who helped create humanistic psychology.

Fran Lew

Fran Lew is an American master portrait artist (born 1946). She is a contemporary realist, trained in academic classical realism. Lew's style of portraiture combines traditional techniques of the Old Masters with her own contemporary vision.

Institutional liberalism

Institutional liberalism or liberal institutionalism is a modern theory of international relations which claims that international institutions and organizations such as the United Nations (UN), NATO and the European Union (EU) can increase and aid cooperation between states. The theory can be compared to idealism, the international relations theory which emerged after the First World War when the League of Nations was founded. Like political realism, institutional liberalism is utilitarian and rationalistic. States are treated as rational actors operating in an international political system in which hierarchy cannot be enforced.

Inter-paradigm debate in international relations theory

The inter-paradigm debate in international relations theory refers to the academic debate between proponents of realist, liberal, and Marxist approaches to international relations theory. This academic debate was topical during the 1970s and 1980s.

Interdependence liberalism

Interdependence liberalism is a strand of liberal international relations thinking which argues that increased interdependence between countries reduces the chance of them engaging in conflict. Interdependence liberals see modernisation as increasing the levels and scope of interdependence between states leading to greater cooperation. Such thinkers also see welfare as the primary concern of states, and the military force becoming less useful.

International security

International security, also called global security, refers to the amalgamation of measures taken by states and international organizations, such as the United Nations, European Union, and others, to ensure mutual survival and safety. These measures include military action and diplomatic agreements such as treaties and conventions. International and national security are invariably linked. International security is national security or state security in the global arena.

With the end of World War II, a new subject of academic study focusing on international security emerged. It began as an independent field of study, but was absorbed as a sub-field of international relations. Since it took hold in the 1950s, the study of international security has been at the heart of international relations studies. It covers labels like "security studies", "strategic studies", "peace studies", and others.

The meaning of "security" is often treated as a common sense term that can be understood by "unacknowledged consensus". The content of international security has expanded over the years. Today it covers a variety of interconnected issues in the world that affect survival. It ranges from the traditional or conventional modes of military power, the causes and consequences of war between states, economic strength, to ethnic, religious and ideological conflicts, trade and economic conflicts, energy supplies, science and technology, food, as well as threats to human security and the stability of states from environmental degradation, infectious diseases, climate change and the activities of non-state actors.While the wide perspective of international security regards everything as a security matter, the traditional approach focuses mainly or exclusively on military concerns.

Low politics

Low politics is a concept that covers all matters that are not absolutely vital to the survival of the state as the economics and the social affairs. The low politics are the domain of the state's welfare. It concerns all things about social or human security. This concept is the opposite of the high politics which concerns the state's survival and strict national security. Keohane and Nye describe that previously, the international relations were based on a simple interdependence scheme based on national security: high politics, and that nowadays the international relations are ruled by a complex interdependence based on domestic issues : low politics.The classical realism theory of international relations only considers the high politics as relevant and completely rejects the low politics. The complex interdependence of the liberal theory considers the low politics as fundamental without rejecting the high politics.

Nelson Shanks

John Nelson Shanks (December 23, 1937 – August 28, 2015) was an American artist and painter. His best known work is probably his portrait of Diana, Princess of Wales, completed in 1996. The painting was first shown at Hirschl & Adler Gallery in New York City, April 24 to June 28, 1996.Shanks had been on the faculty of the Memphis Academy of Arts, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Art Students League of New York, the National Academy of Design and Studio Incamminati and was a resident of Andalusia, Pennsylvania. He was an honorary member of the American Society of Classical Realism Guild of Artists.Shanks was a painter, teacher and art historian influential in the revival of classical realism in the United States. His portraits of royalty, politicians and celebrities added to his international profile as one of the foremost contemporary figurative painters. Shanks' philosophies and skills were shared through his teaching at various public and private institutions. In 2002, he founded Studio Incamminati in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with his wife, Leona Shanks; an academy dedicated to the study, practice and spread of realist art using the philosophy and techniques espoused by Shanks.

Neorealism (international relations)

Neorealism or structural realism is a theory of international relations that says power is the most important factor in international relations. It was first outlined by Kenneth Waltz in his 1979 book Theory of International Politics. Alongside neoliberalism, neorealism is one of the two most influential contemporary approaches to international relations; the two perspectives have dominated international relations theory for the last three decades. Neorealism emerged from the North American discipline of political science, and reformulates the classical realist tradition of E. H. Carr, Hans Morgenthau, and Reinhold Niebuhr.

Neorealism is subdivided into defensive and offensive neorealism.

Paolo Uccello

Paolo Uccello (Italian pronunciation: [ˈpaːolo utˈtʃɛllo]; 1397 – 10 December 1475), born Paolo di Dono, was an Italian painter and mathematician who was notable for his pioneering work on visual perspective in art. In his book Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects Giorgio Vasari wrote that Uccello was obsessed by his interest in perspective and would stay up all night in his study trying to grasp the exact vanishing point. While his contemporaries used perspective to narrate different or succeeding stories, Uccello used perspective to create a feeling of depth in his paintings. His best known works are the three paintings representing the battle of San Romano, which were wrongly entitled the "Battle of Sant' Egidio of 1416" for a long period of time.Paolo worked in the Late Gothic tradition, emphasizing colour and pageantry rather than the classical realism that other artists were pioneering. His style is best described as idiosyncratic, and he left no school of followers. He has had some influence on twentieth-century art and literary criticism (e.g., in the "Vies imaginaires" by Marcel Schwob, "Uccello le poil" by Antonin Artaud and "O Mundo Como Ideia" by Bruno Tolentino).

Postclassical realism

Postclassical realism is an international relations theory term coined by academic Stephen Brooks. It refers to a strand of realist international relations theory scholarship distinguishable to the neorealist scholarship of Kenneth Waltz. It is also roughly equivalent to defensive realism.Contrary to neorealism, it asserts that states do not necessarily always maximize their security. Rather than focusing on the possibility of conflict, they place more emphasis on the probability of conflict. Under this premise, conflict is more likely to occur when circumstances favor offensive capabilities in military technology and geography over defensive capabilities. When the opposite is true, states will discount the short-term gains of a military buildup in favor of the long-term benefits from economic growth. In this sense, states are ultimately power seekers who only maximize security when threats are very high. Unlike classical realism, however, postclassical realism doesn't assume that power is an end in and of itself; rather, power enables states to have the most flexibility to accomplish any goals they deem important.

Realism (international relations)

Realism is a school of thought in international relations theory, theoretically formalising the Realpolitik statesmanship of early modern Europe. Although a highly diverse body of thought, it can be thought of as unified by the belief that world politics ultimately is always and necessarily a field of conflict among actors pursuing power. Crudely, realists are of three kinds in what they take the source of ineliminable conflict to be. Classical realists believe that it follows from human nature, neorealists focus upon the structure of the anarchic state system; neoclassical realists believe that it is a result of a combination of the two and certain domestic variables. Realists also disagree about what kind of action states ought to take to navigate world politics and neorealists are divided between defensive realism and offensive realism. Realists have also claimed that a realist tradition of thought is evident within the history of political thought all the way back to antiquity to Thucydides.

Jonathan Haslam characterizes realism as "a spectrum of ideas." Regardless of which definition is used, the theories of realism revolve around four central propositions: that states are the central actors in international politics rather than individuals or international organizations, that the international political system is anarchic as there is no supranational authority that can enforce rules over the states, that the actors in the international political system are rational as their actions maximize their own self-interest, as well as that all states desire power so that they can ensure their own self-preservation.

Realism is often associated with Realpolitik as both are based on the management of the pursuit, possession, and application of power. Realpolitik, however, is an older prescriptive guideline limited to policy-making (like foreign policy), while realism is a particular paradigm, or wider theoretical and methodological framework, aimed at describing, explaining and, eventually, predicting events in the international relations domain. The theories of Realism are contrasted by the cooperative ideals of liberalism. Realism is one of the dominant strains of thought in modern foreign policy. As an academic pursuit, realism is not tied to ideology; it does not favor any particular moral philosophy, nor does it consider ideology to be a major factor in the behavior of nations. Priorities of realists have been described as "Machiavellian", with the primary focus being increasing the relative power of one's own nation over others.

Rob Gutteridge

Rob Gutteridge is a South Australian artist and arts educator. As well as teaching at Adelaide Central School of Art, Gutteridge runs the Rob Gutteridge School of Classical Realism.

Sociological liberalism

Sociological liberalism is an international relations theory. It is critical of realist theory which it sees as too state-centric. Sociological liberals see international relations in terms of relationships between people, groups and organisations in different countries. Many sociological liberals believe that increased transnational relations could help create new forms of human society.

Strategic realism

Strategic realism is a theory of international relations associated with Thomas Schelling.

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