For more insight into Figurative Realism in the real sense, we need to look at three painters depicting the realism of and for their own time. The painters to be examined here are William Coldstream, Euan Uglow, and Antonio Lopez Garcia.
Coldstream was born in 1908 and died in 1987. He was educated at and later would teach at The Slade School of Art in London. He dedicated his life to examining the specific aspects of his subjects and went in a meticulously measured pragmatic manner.
William suspended a mason’s plumb bob in front of his subject and meticulously measured everything against this plumbed vertical.
One of the primal qualities that distinguished homo sapiens is our ability to stand upright. Because of this, we immediately relate to Coldstream’s plumbed verticals. His paintings have an architectonic structure with evidence of their penciled in construction lines in the completed works. There is a manic searching reminiscent of Giacometti. One feels via the pentimenti that things have been drawn and redrawn, painted and repainted is search of some sort of unattainable truth.
Euan Uglow (1932 – 2000) was a Coldstream’s student at the Slade School in the ’50s, he would later teach there as well. He adopted Coldstream’s rigorous approach taking the color and the planer aspect it to another level.
The design methods are extreme, and there are construction marks made with a 2B pencil throughout that indicate extensive the use of the Golden Section. Their is a constant search for rightness.
Lastly, we come to the Spaniard Antonio Lopez Garcia. Born in 1936 Garcia was trained at Real Academia de Bellas Artes in Madrid. He uses similar methods of design and precise measurements in his work.
Garcia works and unreasonably amount of time on his works to get the desired results, once again leaving architectonic construction marks as evidence of process.
These painters work that could not have been of another time that is one distinguishing aspect of realism. One could argue that the graphics created by Coldstream, Uglow, and Garcia rely on process and measurement or perhaps what they are depicting process and measurement. There is a visible effort to avoid idealizing and generalizing that would not be reflective of their current time and place.
Realism, in the genuine sense, avoids narrative strategies. With Coldstream, Uglow, and Garcia one becomes one with the process, we become somehow intimately related to the poetic perception and metric magic at play here.
All three of these painters often worked several years on one painting perhaps never feeling that they got it right.