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Nymphs and Satyr, by William Bouguereau (Detail)
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This speech was given by Frederick Ross on 11/28/2011 at the Salmagundi Club in Manhattan, for the Opening of the 2011 NTDTV Chinese International Figure Painting Competition.

For video coverage of this event, please click here.

To read the Epoch Times article, please click here.

To see the NTDTV news report of the event, please click here.

Real Art is Alive
and Well

By Frederick C. Ross MA; Chairman ARC

t is wonderful to be here today to witness and participate in an event that celebrates excellence and those attributes in humanity that makes us proud of our common bonds.

To be here at a competition focused on truth, beauty and compassion.

Your mission, like mine, is to return art to its rightful path. To see living artists bring the focus back to our unique humanity, and to do so with the highest levels of craft, creativity and imagination.

We are bearing witness here at this great competition, that the fine arts of painting, drawing and sculpture, are returning to their rightful place alongside the other great arts of writing, poetry, music, dance and theatre. And to affirm that fine art is only at its best when using the vocabulary and grammar of Realism. The vocabulary is objects and figures from the real world. The grammar: drawing, modeling, perspective, composition, light, tone, paint handling, design and balance. And like vocabulary and grammar in writing, in painting and sculpture too both are used in the service of the subject, theme or story being told...to do what the art imposters of Modernism and Post Modernism are unable to do: capture, display and express the ideas, thoughts and emotions of mankind with poetry, beauty and grace...

Our beliefs, our experiences, our fantasies our dreams, our hopes, fears and desires, our best and our worst, all of which are singular, specific and unique to our shared humanity.

Anyone who has been paying attention to the world of fine arts during the last few decades, can't help but be aware of the resurgence of traditional realism in drawing, painting and sculpture.

This has especially been true since the advent of the internet where it has become possible to broadcast responsible opposing views to the Modernist art establishment. Art Renewal Center, (ARC) was created for this purpose specifically and then inevitably became much more.

The post-modernists like to credit Andy Warhol and post-modernism generally for ushering realism back in to the art world and giving it respectability. But in truth, Post-modernism is just another way of expressing the existential and the nihilistic chaos which is at the core of Modernism itself. Randomness the accidental and the intentional removal of intention are misnamed by these ideologues as spontaneity which is given the highest value in their mind set.

The hegemony achieved by the practitioners of this movement laid to waste the institutions of art during most of the 20th Century. They mandated disorder as their order of the day. They tell their disciples to let their hands move disjointedly, and instruct their brains to choose lines and colors which are preferable if they clash and are unrelated and they admonish themselves continuously not to tell any story and inject any meaning into their work.

Mostly modernists aim for the inarticulate as a virtue; and define the communication that comes from the articulate, the intended, the ordered, and the meaningful as a vice which should be shorn from the artist's work as one would tear off and destroy the diseased garments from those afflicted with the Plague.

This core body of principles have become the bulwark of the Modern and Post Modern paradigm which had by the 1940's succeeded in taking over the entire world of the fine arts: whether in the public schools, universities art departments, curatorial staff of most museums and the overwhelming preponderance of journalistic art criticism.

The primary cause of their success emanated from the economic interests of a large and powerful network of art dealers. The agents who represented the most successful masters in the 19th and prior centuries would have to wait for weeks or months for each painting if it was from Bouguereau, Meissonier, Gerome, Alma-Tadema, Lord Leighton or by any of the masters of that came just before the Modernist era.

Meanwhile, they had scores of wealthy collectors who were ready willing and able to purchase works by the famous or the up and coming artists of the day.

If only they had a larger supply.

How convenient was this new set of core principles which justified and praised works that took hours instead of weeks or months to create each new saleable item in their inventory. They quickly realized too that they needed to drive realism completely out of the art world if they were to succeed. How could they hang a William Bouguereau or Lord Leighton next to Jackson Pollock or a Willem De Kooning and convince clientele that they were equivalents in value?

This greatest of all art scams needed the wealthy and cynical to buy into their prospectus. Even the art departments at the colleges and universities started singing the same song which was now at the peak of fashion. Most people don't realize that the majority of colleges didn't have art departments prior to 1950. When those art departments were formed it was at a time when Modernism was in full force educating students to this mindset in droves and still do to this day.

To this end they invented their own art history, and made up events that never actually happened, creating a history and mythology orchestrated by highly articulate verbal craftsmen whose skill with language to turn a word or develop disingenuous ideas, ordained their new paradigm with its own language...a language which many of us call "art-speak".

Art-speak deftly utilizes the most sophisticated artifices of language to praise the inarticulate the shapeless, formless and meaningless in art to convince people to deny the evidence of their own senses. The craftiest of wordsmiths hammered the nails into the coffin of craft. And the most sophisticated of sophists using machinations of meaning to convince their constituents of the death of the meaningful. These word jugglers use seemingly sensible claims and clauses to entrench the nonsensical and chaotic. And then using their mythological laced history with sentiments of biblical rage, they hoodwinked 5 generations of educated people into rejecting human sentiment which was at the core of the great art and artists of all the art in the past.

What irony, that stories fabricated about oppressed Impressionist artists at the hands of the French Academy were used to sew the final strictures in their modernist structures to insure the death of story-telling.

Anyone who has studied art history over the past half century was taught how the Impressionists were mistreated and not permitted into the art world of that day.

I'm here to tell you that it's a lie. It never happened.

I have it fully documented with footnotes where I explain at some length in my Introduction to the William Bouguereau Catalog Raissoné and Biography which I co-authored and which finally was published last year...a 1000 page project that took 32 years.

But far worse than all these lies being taught about Impressionism being suppressed at the hands of the Academicians...is the fact that those stories have been used as the justification for the suppression of living traditional realist art and all of the living realist artists have been driven from the museum and galleries far more aggressively vengeful, mean-spirited and absolutely than even their false history describes as being suffered by the Impressionists.

In actuality its infinitely worse since the Impressionists were never stopped from showing at Paris Salons and the Salon de Refuse was not formed by Manet but by Napoleon III who did so due to the complaints of a number of academic artists who were not allowed into the Paris Salon of 1863.

So a fabricated history and a convoluted language "Art-Speak".

The art of writing and language was thus used to destroy the visual arts of paintings, drawing and sculpture.

Irony indeed!

But if we go back to the 19th century, there were great writers and poets who lived and worked with fine artists of the day and thought of each other as colleagues. Both groups used their art as a way of communicating ideas, thoughts, feelings, beliefs.

The great writers and artists of that era were praised and elevated by their society. Victor Hugo, was considered by the French to be their greatest writer of his era. When Hugo died, his family and the top officials of government consulted on how to handle his funeral since he was so beloved by his countrymen. They concluded that the best man to preside over his funeral should be the fine artist who had attained the same level in his chosen field.

That man was William Bouguereau who happened too to be friends of Hugo and his family. Hundreds of thousands of people lines the roadways when the hearse drove by with Victor Hugo, and there were just as many again straining to see too when Bouguereau passed on himself a few years later.

The writers and the artists of that era celebrated and elevated humanity in their writing and paintings. They were the first generation that derived from the great revolutions in America and Europe. Outgrowths of the Enlightenment and the Age of Reason, their work celebrated freedom, equality, and the human spirit.

Today those 19th century writers are still praised to the heavens: Hugo, Balzac, Stendhal, Dickens, James, Sinclair, Clemens, etc.

But the artists of the same era, the Academicians, who were communicating the same life affirming, humanity elevating subjects were ridiculed, suppressed and slandered.

The first 50 years of my life was during the time when Traditional Realism was in headlong retreat...in the 1950's and 60's, nearly to the point of being completely exterminated.

While every college and University in the western world had art departments with unskilled and untrained faculties committed to the tenants of Modernism, there were but 7 ateliers in 1978 with perhaps 50 or 60 students in total. They learn skill sets and a craft built on a 600 year tradition of Western Art. Modernism is art about art, but ARC ateliers are committed to art about life.

Between 1978 and 2001 the number of ateliers expanded from 7 to 14 schools from 60 to perhaps 150 students in total.

Then we formed The Art Renewal Center, ARC in 1999 and didn't go live until we had over 15,000 of history's greatest art works on our website available in higher resolution than anywhere else on the internet.

In 2001 we added this section called ARC Approved™ ateliers schools. In only ten years we have grown from 14 to 72 schools and programs, from 150 to nearly 4,000 students...clearly now a full blown rapidly expanding art movement.

If you look at the yearly ARC Salons during the past decade the quality of the work being entered has increased by leaps and bounds.

I can't tell you how pleased we were to learn how many other organizations were developing down a parallel course. The NTDTV Chinese International yearly Figure Painting Competition clearly demonstrates this.

I'm pleased to see that every winner in this year's competition would readily qualify to become an ARC Approved Artist, possibly even ARC Living Masters.

I encourage you all to apply.

In conclusion, let me assert that abandoning the intentional, the articulate, the poetic and the meaningful is no virtue, and the espousal of skills, harmony, beauty and human sentiment is no vice.

Thank you!

Fred Ross is currently Executive Administrator of the Committee to write the Catalog Raisonné on William Bouguereau. He is Chairman of the Art Renewal Center®, and has been published or interviewed in the American Arts Quarterly, the California Art Club, Forbes Magazine, Artnews, New Jersey Monthly, the Victorian Society in America, and the Classical Realist Journal. He has been a featured speaker at Sotheby's, the Dahesh Museum, the Wadsworth Atheneum, and University of Memphis. He holds a Master's in Art Education from Columbia University, and along with his wife Sherry owns one of the foremost collections of 19th Century European paintings.
Table of Contents for the ARC Philosophy

  • What is Fine Art and Why Realism? Keynote Address delivered at 2015 Realist Art Conference
  • ARC Chairman Fred Ross' Oil Painters of America Keynote Address
  • Chapter I. Why Realism? [Chinese version]
  • Chapter II. The Great 20th Century Art Scam
  • Chapter III. Good Art / Bad Art - Pulling Back the Curtain
  • Chapter IV. Bouguereau and the "Real" 19th Century
  • Chapter V. ARC Chairman speaks at the Angel Academy of Art
  • Chapter VI. ARC Chairman Speaks at duCret School of Art
  • Chapter VII. Abstract Art is Not Abstract and Definitely Not Art [Chinese version]
  • Chapter VIII. Oppressors Accuse their Victims of Oppression
  • Chapter IX. 2011 NTDTV Award Speech
  • Special Feature. Hockney's 'Secret Knowledge': Refuted

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