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Entries in Realism (15)


Alyssa Monks: Blurring the Line Between Realism and Abstraction

Alyssa Monks - I Said No - 2018 - Oil on Linen - 36 x 36 inches - Forum Gallery, New YorkAfter graduating from such prestigious programs as the Lorenzo de’ Medici art school and the New York Academy of Art’s Graduate School of Figurative Art, Alyssa Monks (born 1977) has become one of the leading forces in subject painting. Monks’ paintings have been featured in numerous exhibitions everywhere from Germany, to Georgia, to New York City. She has been awarded the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation Grant for Painting three times, and has become a member of the New York Academy of Art’s Board of Trustees.

She blurs and fuses layers of space in her almost photorealistic works, to create immersive abstraction that feels uniquely intimate and provocative. Of her own work Monks says, “My intention is to transfer the intimacy and vulnerability of my human experience into a painted surface.” While the artist’s complex works embody various techniques and styles, Monk’s response is, “I don’t think it’s the job of the artist to label their own work. I just paint it.”


Janet Fish: Life Itself—Captured in Casual Glances

Janet Fish - Raspberries and Goldfish - 1981 - Oil on linen with acrylic gesso ground - 72 x 64 in. (182.9 x 162.6 cm) - Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY (click photo for larger image)American artist Janet Fish (born 1938) is discussed elsewhere on What About Art? She is known for large still life compositions of common objects with bright colors--lime green, pink, yellow, etc. Fish works from a loft in the SoHo section of New York City and takes pride in the fact that she paints "forbidden subjects," which refers to her realistic paintings. Her work, expressive of her highly independent spirit, is a reaction against the pure abstraction that has been prevalent for so many years in the American art world, especially in New York.

As the work featured here demonstrates, “[h]er subjects really are color, light, visual movement and space, and the content of her work is perhaps life itself, seen in isolated moments of unusual juxtapositions and casual glances. It is the work of a true painter, who sees potential paintings many times throughout the average day.


Rosa Bonheur: A Woman and Artist of Substance

Rosa Bonheur - The Horse Fair - 1852-55 - Oil on canvas - 96 1/4 x 199 1/2 in. (244.5 x 506.7 cm) - Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (click photo for larger image)French painter and sculptor Rosa Bonheur (1822-1899) earned fame for the remarkable accuracy and detail of her pictures featuring animals. Toward the end of her career those qualities were accentuated by a lighter palette and the use of a highly polished surface finish.

By the time Bonheur was in her teens, her talent for sketching live animals had manifested itself, and—rejecting training as a seamstress—she began studying animal motion and forms on farms, in stockyards, and at animal markets, horse fairs, and slaughterhouses, observing and sketching them and gaining an intimate knowledge of animal anatomy. At the Salon of 1841 she exhibited two paintings. 

The work featured here is best described by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. “This, Bonheur’s best-known painting, shows the horse market held in Paris on the tree-lined Boulevard de l’Hôpital, near the asylum of Salpêtrière, which is visible in the left background. For a year and a half Bonheur sketched there twice a week, dressing as a man to discourage attention. Bonheur was well established as an animal painter when the painting debuted at the Paris Salon of 1853, where it received wide praise. In arriving at the final scheme, the artist drew inspiration from George Stubbs, Théodore Gericault, Eugène Delacroix, and ancient Greek sculpture: she referred to The Horse Fair as her own "Parthenon frieze.”

Bonheur was the first woman awarded the Grand Cross by the French Legion of Honor. A professional artist with a successful career, Bonheur lived in two consecutive committed relationships with women.


Courbet: A Wholly New Philosophy

Gustave Courbet - Poor Woman of the Village - 1866 - Oil on canvas, 86 x 126 cm - Private collection (click photo for larger image)

French painter Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) was central to the emergence of Realism in the mid-19th century. Rejecting the classical and theatrical styles of the French Academy, his art insisted on the physical reality of the objects he observed—even if that reality was plain and blemished. He also saw his Realism as a means to champion the peasants and country people from his home town. He has long been famous for his response to the political upheavals which gripped France during his lifetime. More recently, historians have seen his work as an important prelude to other artists of early modernism, such as Èdouard Manet, Claude Monet, and Paul Cézanne (all of whom are discussed elsewhere on What About Art?).

Courbet’s reputation has continued to grow since his death. His detractors often judge his art only on the basis of his socialism, ignoring the fact that his political beliefs grew out of his generosity and compassion. His work offered succeeding generations of painters not so much a new technique as a wholly new philosophy. The aim of his painting was not, as previous schools had maintained, to embellish or idealize reality but to reproduce it accurately and without sentimentalism. Courbet succeeded in ridding his painting of artistic clichés, contrived idealism, and timeworn models.


Janet Fish

Janet Fish - Grocery-wrapped Pears - 1971 - pastel on brown wove Canson paper - sheet: 50.8 x 65.4 cm (20 x 25 3/4 in.) mount: 73.7 x 65.4 cm (29 x 25 3/4 in. - National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.American contemporary Realist Janet Fish (born 1938) paints still life paintings—many of which focus on bouncing and reflective light. It’s been suggested that her achievements have helped to revitalize both still life and realism, which have often been looked down upon by artists and critics alike. However, “even in modern times still life has presented opportunities for artists to create a visual equivalent of states of being…” and this is certainly a view held by Janet Fish.

She was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and raised on the island of Bermuda. Her grandfather, Clark Voorhees (1871-1933) was an American Impressionist painter whose works very much inspired her. Her father was a teacher of Art History, and her mother was a sculptor and potter. Janet began her art studies in Maine, and eventually studied at the Yale University School of Art and Architecture. She was one of the first women to receive her MFA from Yale.

Janet’s solidification as an artist did not come easily—because the generation of young artists who came of age in the 1950s were influenced by the then dominant New York School of Abstract Expressionists. But now her work is exhibited by many prestigious museums and institutions around the world. She’s also received numerous fellowships and awards. Janet Fish now lives and paints out of her SoHo loft in New York City, and her Vermont farmhouse.