Though Abstract Realism has been brewing for centuries, it has not been recognized as the extraordinary departure from most Realism that it is. Conceptually, it is in a completely different category. The awareness of paint’s abstract power may have started late in Titian’s career when he stated that at 60 he was just beginning to learn what painting was all about. His work “The Flaying of Marsyas
” is notable for its uninhibited exploration of the pure exuberance of paint with just enough imagery to deem it realistic. Rembrandt
took this experimentation further when he married it with visual concepts. His work may be the most influential and realized of all the proponents of this way of painting.
Visual ideas are at the core of Abstract Realism. These ideas are as varied as each human being’s perceptions, life experience and inherent natures. The differences are often as subtle as distinguishing between the work of Frans Hals
, Anthony Van Dyck
— without the help of their actual signatures. To the casual viewer, there is little or no distinction, but to the observant eye, there is a world of difference. Each of these artists has distinctly different intentions and paint application, which are in fact their true signatures.
Concept can involve edges, as in some of Walter Murch’s paintings or it might use color and value with extreme conservation as in many still lifes by Hovsep Pushman. It could embody the simplicity of shapes as in some Soren Emil Carlsen still lifes or rich color relationships where less is truly more as in the late George Inness landscapes.
The struggle to captivate the elusiveness of beauty in all its expressions has yielded some of the most compelling paintings known to man. With the recent return to Realism, there is now a visual point-of-view in which subject matter is a vehicle—not the reason—for painting.