Being an advocate of skill-based training and having spent several decades in the pursuit of those skills I am diametrically opposed to those who would purposefully dupe as many non-Socratic thinkers as possible in the name of ‘art’. The first glaring problem with ARC’s philosophy is that they have none. Philosophy would denote a point of view and that is nowhere to be found in the ARC realm. They embrace the oxymoronic term ‘Classical Realism’ as an umbrella for all things representational. They condemn everything non-representational as anti-art. They extoll conservatism, anti-intellectualism and promote only illustrative imagery that appeals to the populace. ARC views art as craft and its makers as craftsmen, Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael, and Durer are turning in their graves. The Renaissance saw the status of the artist move up from that of a medieval craftsman to a parallel with the other arts, Fred Ross and ARC are trying to reverse that part of history.
Let’s examine the pastiche of desperate art movements that ARC lumps together under the auspices of ‘Classical Realism’ let’s start with Bouguereau who realms supreme in their camp. Bouguereau was not a realist he was an idealist and a pretty lightweight one at that. It doesn’t stop there, their big conservative tent includes mannerism, impressionism, romanticism, the pre-raphaelites, classicism, neo-classicism, surrealism, and every other ‘ism’ that includes illustrative imagery. This clearly represents many opposing viewpoints most of which don’t aline with ARC’s posturing. The pastiche of this organization has so many diverse elements that it is rendered irrelevant.It is a tribe that has been gathered for money, its purpose is not to promote art but to promote art they like and we know how that saying goes. They provide a haven for those who are confused by the larger universe of art. They are dumbing down the status of ‘fine art’, that was given birth during the Renaissance, to that of technique or craft. they have provided the ‘Atelier’ movement with teachable skill sets. The enormous cost of the University system and the lack of skill-based training makes Atelier’s attractive to many. The ‘Classical Realist’ movement uses the terms Academy and Atelier interchangeably when in fact they connote two totally different schools of thought. Todays Academies reside within the University/College network where the exchange of philosophies and ideas take shape. The ateliers, for the most part, provide linear vocational training in the craft of observational drawing and painting.Both play a role in the training of today’s artist’s but without the Academic grounding provided by the New ‘University,’ you will remain a craftsman. Becoming an artist is an intellectual business and the business of ARC and many of the Ateliers is definitely anti-intellectual.I know that the bulk of those that consider themselves artists wouldn’t consider themselves ‘conservative’ which is why I am surprised that so many have bought into this ultra-conservative reactionary organization. It is very apparent that they are promoting a very narrow time frame of art history which is centered around the French Academics decadent mid-19thc Third Republic era. I for one have little use for those that try to dictate taste and no use at all for government dictated norms. The art of the salons of this half a century or so is pretty lightweight stuff, that is why it is not in many museums or collections, it is just not very good. Good technique but weak art. When style/technique is dictated by a governing committee (the Third Republic) the results were predictable. The ‘Conservative Realist’ movement would be a move appt moniker.
Here are a couple of links that explore aspects of the Art Renewal Center