Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Art Renewal Center

In 1977 businessman Fred Ross was stopped in his tracks by a painting called Nymphs and Satyr at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts. The painting was by William Bouguereau, an artist that he never read about in many years of his art history studies, except perhaps as an example of everything that was wrong with painting in the nineteenth century.

The encounter with that painting set him on the course of uncovering and celebrating other artists who he felt had been unjustly neglected in the official art histories. With that beginning, he and other experts and artists in the field founded the Art Renewal Center, a website and organization that is dedicated to raising awareness for traditional realism.

The Art Renewal Center uses several means for accomplishing this goal:

1. An online museum with over 63,000 75,000 images, many high res. The most popular artists are Bouguereau, Alma Tadema, and Gerome.

2. A list of art schools which the ARC endorses.

3. An annual Salon competition with $50,000 in cash prizes. (By the way, the deadline is March 1, so there's still time to enter this year).

4. A series of essays and philosophical statements, sometimes rather polemical, by Ross and others regarding realism and modernism.

5. A collection of original Bouguereaus that Ross has gathered and loaned for museum exhibits. He recently helped with the publication of a definitive 2-volume catalog, William Bouguereau (2 Volume Set)

6. An archive of assorted treatises contributed by readers on traditional techniques and philosophies.

7. A list of about 75 contemporary "Living Masters" who have applied for and received that designation by a panel of judges. (As of yesterday, I'm excited to announce that my work has been included in the list. You can go there and get free high res files of my work for non-commercial use.) Any artist may apply for Living Master status.

8. A set of scholarships for students pursuing classical realist training.

9 A website store for books and ARC Salon catalogs.
Art Renewal Center on Wikipedia


LandPainter said...

Congratulations! ARC is an amazing website.

Pat Rock said...

"sometimes rather polemical"


Tom Hart said...

James, my sincere congratulations for an honor very well deserved! I grew up "with" Nymphs and Satyr - having been born within spitting (or at least comfortable driving distance) of The Clark. Somehow I feel that enables me to offer special kudos (though mine are no more special than any others, of course! :^))

Pat Rock said...

I'm sorry I also meant to type: Congratulations!

Anonymous said...


I've never seen "Small Wonder". Looks like homage to 19th Century naturalism. Are those two young models people your regular blog readers should recognize?

Mellie said...

But Bouguereau is a dull, artist who when he isn't being semi-pornographic turns out one bland, milksop shepherdess after another. He is technically able but that doesn't count for much when what you paint is sentimental rot.

Most of the "living masters" promoted by ARC produce desperately boring pictures.

James Gurney said...

Thanks for the kudos, everyone.

Etc, Etc: The boy in that painting is my son Dan when he was about seven, and the girl is a friend of his named Annie. She also appeared in "Dinosaur Boulevard" in the right, carrying a basket of flowers.

Mellie, I admire Bouguereau greatly, but I understand how you feel. I also love art that is disturbing and challenging. It's always debatable when any artist is put forward as the "best," even the best of a certain subcategory within the great universe of art. It comes down to taste. Thank goodness we don't all agree on that.

I personally feel that to advance one group of artists it doesn't help to tear down another group. My sense is that the best way to promote one's favorite artist is to provide information about them, especially compelling stories about them. Even if you don't like the work of a certain artist, it's interesting to hear stories about them.

Anonymous said...

I thought it might have been painted from photo references of you and Jeanette in your childhood. I must be prone to "sentimental rot".

Bouguereau was "technically able"? Try technically superlative.

Mellie said...

etc etc:

So he's technically superlative... at depicting women as as bland, expressionless shepherdesses, and as naked and available nymphs for the prurient satisfaction of male onlookers.

That's a branch of "realism" that we needn't lament.

frostfyre said...

Congratulations! Looking over the rules though, it seems there is a new group of painters being neglected - digital ones. 10 years ago, there weren't so many, but now, I could make a good argument for there being more digital painters than traditional ones. It's a pity the contest excludes them so specifically.

nobody said...

Mr. Gurney, I respect you and I look up to you. Congrats on being named a living master on the Art Renewal website; however, it is upsetting that the Art Renewal group tears down abstract art, because abstraction holds a dear place in my heart (as does realism). Anyway, I just wanted to point that out (about Art Renewal center). Nevertheless, I am sure that you would not be the sort of artist to say that abstract art is not art and realism is, or vise-vera. Personally, I am inspired by both "realms" of the arts... since realism is abstraction re-arranged to resemble "something". Some artists like to say one is legit and the other isn't... but what they fail to realise is that both abstraction and reality are intertwined. In the end, we are all "just" splattering paint on a flat surface... with or without the intention to create an illusion of space.

James Gurney said...

Unknown: thanks for mentioning that. If you read my blog, you will know that I don't condemn abstraction or abstract artists. On the contrary, a deep sensitivity to abstraction is at the heart of all great artwork of whatever camp, just as all music grows from the response to the pure, elemental qualities of sound.

I love the way you put the case, and I completely agree: "Realism is abstraction re-arranged to resemble 'something'....both abstraction and reality are intertwined."

My Pen Name said...

for the prurient satisfaction of male onlookers.
Sigh.. sounds like someone's taken a tiresome 'womyns studies' course. Let me guess, Sargent's Daughters of Edwin Boit represents "male oppression" too, right"

For a sad but true look of similar 'criticism' I suggest to readers "The Rape of the Masters"

Congrats James. I think Fred Ross has done a great job advocating realist painting.

I am sure James will second the recommendation but the Clark Museum in WIlliamstown is worth driving a 100 miles out of your way for.

The collection of Sargents is outstanding - one of his best ever - the ambergris - a Venice street scene, and his portrait of his teacher, Durand.

Janet Oliver said...

Congratulations, James! I've not visited the ARC website, but I gather from some of the other comments, ARC does not look kindly on what they consider abstract art. If one thinks about it, though, all art is abstract; that is, it is concerned with the problem of conveying abstract concepts. The difference between realist painters and abstract painters is how those concepts are translated. I remember reading, as a grad student, the biography of Jackson Pollock, by I think, Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith. In it, they discuss the way Pollock saw the images he dripped, or splattered, on his canvases. According to Naifeh and White, when painting, Pollock sometimes "saw" images, mostly of his beloved childhood dog, hanging before him, suspended in mid-air. His drips were an effort to trace and essentially recapture those images with his paint brush. The loaded brush subsequently dripped onto the canvas on his studio floor. Whether or not one likes Pollock, either as an artist, or as a person, I find this story quite touching.

Mary Byrom said...

Congratulations Jim !!! ARC is great and its not easy to to be a certified master. I too grew up near the Clark and remember Bouguereau, the Sargents and Remmingtons (with the same cowboy model used over and over...) It was a bit overwhelming as a small child to see these very large paintings...so of course when I decided to be an artist (at age 10) I knew I was going to have to find a very large space to paint very large paintings! When you are 5 yrs old the funniest things stick in your mind...it was not the subject matter but the size!

jeff jordan said...

NOBODY paints feet as well as Bougerou

phiq said...

I like realism a lot, but most of the time it's not executed like a Repin, and as a result, most of it is quite boring (Mellie +1!). There are a number of entirely understandable reasons as to why realism doesn't rule the roost anymore. A lot of those reasons stem from realist conventions suffocating artistic expression. I've found the ARC essays groan-inducing. It's always one way or another...

Steve Fastner said...

Congratulations James!

pierangelo boog said...

Long time ARC was a bookmark on my
computer and I have visited this page
with joy. However, unfortunately, the
social level has sunk:Now you pay for it!
The Dollar is more important as the free art for the people?

Christian Schlierkamp said...

Congratulations, James!! So well deserved!!!

Best wishes!

James Gurney said...

Frostfyre, I can't speak for the ARC about digital art. Every competition has some sort of limits, and there are certainly plenty of digital-only contests. I don't know if there are more digital painters than traditional ones. Perhaps the largest number is represented by those who use some combination of digital and traditional.

Speaking as a traditional painter myself, I believe that digital art is playing a key role in the renewed interest in realism, and I, for one, take great inspiration from the leaders in 2D and 3D digital art, who have deepened my understanding of light and color, and opened up new worlds that I had never seen before.

Cole said...

Whenever I thought of 'modern master', James Gurney was already the first name that came to mind. Now it's official.

For those denigrating Bouguereau, I would like to hear your suggestions of whom you consider superior painters, or what 20th century art fads allow for the visual communication of that representational art does not.

Bouguereau's subject matter rarely interests me, the same as the majority of painters' subject matter rarely interests me, but his abilities as a painter are something that cannot be denied and should be appreciated.

Mellie said...

"sounds like someone's taken a tiresome 'womyns studies' course."

So thinking that women should be treated equally to men is tiresome? Charming. Perhaps you should take a course yourself, in learning to spell.

Cole, I have criticised Bouguereau not because I am opposed to traditional realism (I enjoy Mr Gurney's painting, for example) or because I am preoccupied with "art fads" but because technique is not sufficient to make great art. If a painter uses their superb technique to turn out a long series of insipid clich├ęs then they deserve criticism - that's just my opinion, and surely not a very controversial one.

nuum said...

ARC Chairman speaks at the Met

June 7, 2001 -- Fred Ross, Chairman of the Art Renewal Center, addressed a crowd of over 700 portrait artists, gallery owners and members of the press today at America's premier institution of art, the Metropolitan Museum in New York, at the American Society of Portrait Artists (ASOPA) Conference. Mr Ross was interrupted at least 10 times to thunderous applause or peals of laughter, as he blasted Modernism and its chief icons, Picasso, Mattisse and DeKooning, with some of the most biting, yet truthful satire that has ever been heard in those sanctified halls.


I Love it.

nuum said...

"Clearly for many people it is more important to feel that they are some part of an elitist in-group that is endowed with the special ability to see brilliance where the bulk of humanity sees nothing and is afraid to say so. Since most people aren't devoted to or educated in fine art, they have successfully intimidated the bulk of humanity into cowering away in silence, feeling foolish for their inability to understand. The average person shrinks away from believing the reality of his or her own senses in the face of seemingly overwhelming numbers of people in this 20th century "establishment" who authoritatively dictate what is great art and what everyone should be seeing."

Fred Ross, Chairman of the Art Renewal Center

nuum said...

"...You had to be taught to love Picasso, because nobody would love him otherwise. But people don't need to be taught to love Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Bouguereau, or for that matter Chopin, Beethoven, Bach, or Tom Sawyer, The Grapes of Wrath, Alice in Wonderland, or The Christmas Carol."

Fred Ross, Chairman of the Art Renewal Center

Cole said...

Mellie, no great artwork is created without great technique. Bouguereau created immensely popular artwork that was directly relevant to the society and culture in which he lived. Perhaps you should direct your criticism towards 19th century French society.

Are you citing James Gurney as a painter of superior ability to William Bouguereau? A beaming endorsement, if so.

My Pen Name said...

So thinking that women should be treated equally to men is tiresome? Charming. Perhaps you should take a course yourself, in learning to spell.
an angry, humorless feminist, how novel.

No my dear, thinking that Bouguereau depicting a young country shepherdess without an angry sneer or an utterly unfeminine pose is somehow 'oppressing' women.

Perhaps you should direct your criticism towards 19th century French society.

our ugly, rude, vulgar, corrupt, decadent society could take some lessons from the 19th century, rather than criticize.

ghpacific said...

Speaking of digital art, the singularity approaches, http://www.gizmag.com/industrial-robot-pencil-sketches/21547/?utm_source=Gizmag+Subscribers&utm_campaign=1c93ad06b6-UA-2235360-4&utm_medium=email

James Gurney said...

Thanks, GH Kohalakat--that's worthy of a post! Where can I get one of those robots?

nuum said...


Do you think that Picasso's "masterpiece" "Les demoiselles d'Avignon" is a desperately boring picture ?

Do you understand Picasso's painting ?
Do you like Matisse and de Kooning?

I don't.

The Emperor is naked.

Agnes said...

Congrats, well deserved! I have your book, it's very useful (finally an art instruction book that treats all aspects of painting, including gamuts!) It is also very enjoyable, artworks are beautiful. Personally I find Bougeureau a bit kitsch though technically perfect. Surely to prefer to so many modern artworks!

Anonymous said...

So he's technically superlative... at depicting women as as bland, expressionless shepherdesses, and as naked and available nymphs for the prurient satisfaction of male onlookers.

O.k. fair enough for me. I'm mildly repulsed by certain subject matter myself...just not nymphs. :)

James Gurney said...

I think it's interesting how certain artists become flashpoints of debates about art and taste. Usually people end up focusing on Bouguereau, Rockwell, Picasso, or Damien Hirst.

I'm always intrigued why it's them, and not others. Maybe talking about them keeps them all alive in a way. I kind of wish people were arguing about Edwin Austin Abbey or Alphonse Mucha, because they deserve both the heat and light of discussion.

I would also say of Bouguereau that when I saw the huge retrospective of his work in the mid-1980s, I was struck and moved by his early paintings, such as Dante and Virgil in hell, and his Pieta, which were so different from what I expected, and so deeply and sincerely felt. He had remarkable range, and who knows what he, or Norman Rockwell, or Pablo Picasso-- would have been painting if they were born into our times.

Maybe they are glad that someone back on Earth was still arguing about them. The worst death is oblivion.

nuum said...

Mr. Gurney

We can include Frazetta is this fight (besides Bouguereau, Rockwell, Picasso, and Damien Hirst. )

In a post about him in the site hoodedutilitarian.com

author Robert Stanley Martin says:

(about Catgirl)
"...Picasso evoked it in Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907), considered by many to be the greatest painting of the twentieth century, and it is also present in Matisse’s early masterwork Carmelina (1904). Cat Girl is nowhere near the level of Les Demoiselles d’Avignon – Frazetta can’t begin to compete with Picasso’s stylistic originality — but I think it’s a stronger work than the Matisse. Carmelina explores the subject entirely through characterization; its central dynamic is the contrast between the harshness of the
protagonist’s face and the sensuousness of her body. Frazetta’s treatment is far more poetic—the drama is created through metaphor. I think Cat Girl is the finest thing he ever
did, and one notes that he was extremely fond of it himself; the original was kept framed above the drawing board in his studio."

Let me repeat:
"...but I think it’s a stronger work than the Matisse (Carmelina)"

How can a human being compare Catgirl to Carmelina ?


Frazetta's Catgirl (1984)

Matisse’s "masterwork" Carmelina (1904)

Picasso's "Les Demoiselles d’Avignon" (1907).
"considered by many to be the greatest painting of the twentieth century"

People are afraid to tell that don't like Picasso or Matisse.
I'm not.

I love your work, Master.

Anonymous said...

James, you have been my hero for a long time. You deserve every recognition from every possible body there is. To be recognized by ARC, when I believe their natural tendency would be to be wary of Illustrators, shows that they do not have blinders on after all. The caliber of your work is speaks for itself. The tile is apt: Living Master.


Frankie said...

"Sigh.. sounds like someone's taken a tiresome 'womyns studies' course. "

"an angry, humorless feminist, how novel.

No my dear, thinking that Bouguereau depicting a young country shepherdess without an angry sneer or an utterly unfeminine pose is somehow 'oppressing' women. "

MyPenName, whether or not you disagree with Mellie, your attacks on feminists and condescending pet names directed at this person because you found out she is a woman is boorish and uncalled for, not to mention bizarre given the context. You didn't even address the point she was making. Of course Bouguereau's Nymphs and Satyr is sexual. Many of his paintings are. Whether or not woman should be sexualized in paintings like that is an interesting discussion to have, but not with a misogynist like yourself.

phiq said...

@Frankie - Well said.

My Pen Name said...

My 'attacks" ? This is so typical. Make outrageous, insulting comments and claims then be 'hurt' when someone points out the absurdity.

Yes Frankie, post modern feminism and cultural marxism are absurd, and rightly subject to ridicule, particularly when it comes to art. Roger Kimbal wrote a whole book on it "The Rape of the Masters".

not with a misogynist like yourself.
so the use of the word dear=misogynist.

I am sure you would like to see me 'banned' as you ilk often ends up doing on campuses across the country to anyone who dare questions your empty assertions.

Spare me, sweetheart.
(so now I will get a lecture about being 'insulting' but it's ok for you to call me a misogynist, right?)

Tom Hart said...

To Frankie an My Pen Name: You've both made your positions very clear. Thank you. May I suggest an end to that particular debate on this forum?

My Pen Name said...

Of course Bouguereau's Nymphs and Satyr is sexual.
i was addressing her comments about shepherdesses, not the nymphs and satyr, but I am curious how would you paint it, or should this myth which is deeply rooted in our psyche just be 'banned' as 'sexist'? .

Mellie said:

at depicting women as as bland, expressionless shepherdesses,

I think it takes a particularly political bent mind to see that in one of Bougurereau's paintings. . The same sort of mind sees the Daughters of Ew. Boit as 'a harem' ( I kid you not: "In the end, Lubin's fanciful enemy is, of course, the “white patriarchal capitalist,” Mr. E. D. Boit himself, and the entire piece can be viewed as “his harem, his congregation of wives.”3 In Lubin's hands Sargent's painting becomes a space of transgressive sexual turmoil of the most disgusting kind.").

And Frankie that is what people of this political bent have been doing to western art - trying to degrade and warp its meaning -to create a bland, meaningless, genderless, colorless world with all the charm of a soviet housing project.


Most of the "living masters" promoted by ARC produce desperately boring pictures.

Mellie made plenty of sweeping, insulting comments like this, but that doesn't seem to bother you, does it?

My Pen Name said...

lastly, again from the Art Renewal site:
As a recent M.A. graduate in art history I have witnessed first-hand the widespread nature of these non-aesthetic readings of art. Interpretations like that listed above are not the exception, but de rigueur of an art history university education. In classes, I have sat before slides of traditional nineteenth-century paintings where grating feminist theory has been offered to answer the question “What do you see in this painting?” Nearly any available object contained potential to be a phallic symbol, any shy female expression was a result of sexual repression, and any feminine charm was meant to imply a male chauvinist gaze.


Frankie said...

MyPenName, obviously I wasn't criticizing Boug, only your blatant sexism, and now your aggressive ignorance and complete bafflement at how what you said could even be construed as sexist. Yes, calling a woman cutesy pet names when arguing is treating her like a child and degrading in a way that is only directed at women. It might have been just a fluke and clumsy word choice on your part, but your attacks on feminism show otherwise.

"post modern feminism and cultural marxism are absurd, and rightly subject to ridicule particularly when it comes to art. Roger Kimbal wrote a whole book on it "The Rape of the Masters.""

What on Earth is "cultural marxism" and how, in your mind, does it even equate to feminism? The word makes me think of white people scarred of the "browning" of America, but maybe it's not so insidious on your part. I'm not interested either way.

As for the book you love, I thought it was odd that someone would equate a draining interest in representational art among some buyers with rape, but now I see it's an entire book dedicated to the kind of misogynistic drivel you're spewing in this thread. Charming.

"Spare me, sweetheart."

Is this what is feels like to be a woman confronted with male privilege? I have to give women in this society credit; they must put up with a lot of shit.

"(so now I will get a lecture about being 'insulting' but it's ok for you to call me a misogynist, right?)"

Sure, because you are one, and you've demonstrated that with every post made in this thread for some reason. I was not calling you out for being "insulting," I was calling you out for calling women you disagree with baby names (condescendingly referring to someone as "sweetheart" is an insult you would reserve only for someone you thought was a woman) and your incessant need to attack feminism even in threads that have nothing to do with it.

LOL at your fears that "I'm trying to censor you."

Anonymous said...

My Pen Name,
I agree there are some real absurdities coming from Marxism, Feminism, Gender, etc. approaches to art. However, I think it's important to bear in mind that a large percentage of women have been the victims of sexual abuse, which can very much color one's perceptions and responses to certain subject matter in art. As a young boy, I was fondled and went through a grooming process by a pedophile; many have suffered much worse, but even that level affects one in profound ways that those who have been fortunate enough not to experience it cannot comprehend. I find Caravaggio's paintings of nude boys repulsive to a degree that most other people might not.

nobody said...

(from Unknown - I hadn't set my username yet) Thanks for clarifying about the abstract bit. I also like what you said about not pitting one group of artists over another. In the end, artists should be humble and be open to viewing/experiencing all sorts of art. Whether we like it or not is another thing entirely... but hey, some folks like oranges and others don't, right? Doesn't mean I should go writing articles about how oranges aren't fruit. :)

My Pen Name said...

@ect, etc
I am truly sorry to hear that. I cannot even begin to imagine, though I know someone who suffered similar abuse. I would never think deliberately taunt someone about that (and I am not at all saying you are accusing me of that, you bring up a very relevant point)

I suppose it is not unlike conversations about spanking. - those who have had mild constructive punishments as a child react very differently to victims of true beatings and abuse.

I have similar reactions that as you to the carvaggio paintings (if they are the ones i am thinking of) but the reactions of certain posters here seem to be the result of a bad art history teacher, not unlike the ones cited in the ArtRenewal essay.

My Pen Name said...

condescendingly referring to someone as "sweetheart" is an insult you would reserve only for someone you thought was a woman
oh you're so right. When i was in college, our rugby coach called us 'lads' only you can imagine the indignation and trauma I suffered, me, a grown up 19 year old being called an infantilizing child's name! The horror! and he continued to call me that horrible name even AFTER I had passed art history 101! (Guess what, when we screwed up he called us a lot worse than lads). I am so glad people of your ilk have fought for campus speech codes to save us from that trauma. Still.. to this day.. to this day.. nearly 20 years later the mens and women's teams are still segregated! Gender apartheid!

It gets worse. Once, when I was in a roadside diner a middle aged waitress (sorry for the sexist gender specific word) called me hon could you imagine? ! how condescending! I felt.... well like those exploited daughters of Edward Boit!

LOL at your fears that "I'm trying to censor you."
I have no doubt Frankie, that had I used that horrible word "dear" in person, you would indeed report me to your local campus thought police (and I really hope you are a college student and under 23, because I can find no other excuse for your 'views')

As for the book you love, I thought it was odd that someone would equate a draining interest in representational art among some buyers with rape, but now I see it's an entire book dedicated to the kind of misogynistic drivel you're spewing in this thread

Ah, I see, so now, the book is 'dedicated to misogynistic drivel'. Et Tu, Roger Kimball! Perhaps if you actually stopped to read it before, becoming red eyed with anger, you'd learn what the book is actually about. No Frankie, it has nothing to with a 'draining' (?) interest in representational art among buyers, or equating that with rape.

Wrong on two accounts. Firstly, it's not about the art market, but rather, art criticism and the state of art history in academia. Second, it includes chapters on artists like Rothko who can hardly be accused of being a 'representational' artist.

Marsha Rhodes Gilliam said...

Dear James, I have followed ARC for many years and I must tell you how happy I was the other day when I discovered that they have recognized you as the "Modern Master" that you are! They are a prestigious organization in my estimation, and one that does not accept mediocrity. Congratulations to you for this addition to your already outstanding list of accomplishments!
All the best,
Marsha Rhodes Gilliam

Mellie said...

Thanks Frankie for the intelligent support.

'My Pen Name', I suggest you report yourself to James Gurney's studio immediately. He has never had the option to paint a dinosaur from life.