The Evening Standard’s Jenny Willhide says realist painting is enjoying a renaissance. This was the way Picasso was taught and is the basis for doing “absolutely anything” in art:
The number of new schools of realist painting opening across the US, China, Russia and now London in recent years shows that this form of art is going through something of a Renaissance.
London has long boasted hundreds of drawing clubs and evening classes but it’s the classical, rigorous Atelier tradition, handed down through centuries by old masters from Rembrandt and Titian through to John Singer Sargent, that has recently taken hold in London and across the US and is attracting a surprising number of talented and ambitious students.
What do they learn in these studio schools?
first how to stand, hold the charcoal, how to draw a straight line from the shoulder and why. Then, using boxes of various size and shape, the sight-sizing method of measuring – establishing proportion by eye rather than a measuring stick – which takes many months to master. Then using classical plaster casts under focused spotlight, how to render mass, shadow-shapes and subtle colour-values. Chamois leather cloths were used to unceremoniously wipe the paper clean and start again, charcoal dust was everywhere, and a good slug of Rioja helped raise dejected spirits at half-time.
Students then graduated to using oil paint administered with large brushes for the 20-minute still life of bottles, jugs, fruit and vegetables, on canvas board. They learnt about the pigments in oil paints – and which colours are naturally more translucent or opaque. They learnt that when using wet oils you have to paint from dark to light because once white pigment is applied, its density is such that dark pigments won’t “take” when laid wet over the top. Eventually the students tackle painting from life with models, both naked and dressed, as Freud did throughout his long career.
Doing Art Freud’s Way (Evening Standard)