An Outline of Basic Principles
Frederic, Lord Leighton, The Daphnephoria, 1875-76. Oil on canvas, 7 feet 5 inches x 17 feet. National Museums and Art Galleries on Merseyside. Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight.
By Stephen Gjertson and Annette LeSueur
Dedicated to Richard F. Lack (1929-2009)
Artist, Teacher, Writer, Mentor, Friend
Titian, The Assumption of the Virgin, 1516-18. Oil on panel, 22 feet 7 1/2 inches x 11 feet 10 inches. Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Venice.
Annette LeSueur and I developed this material over a period of several years. While teaching at Atelier Lack, we often discussed the principles of pictorial design. We perceived design as the primary weakness of work done by students in modern ateliers and academies. When students began their careers, we noticed that they often continued to merely produce student studies on a larger scale, sometimes haphazardly arranging randomly chosen objects. We recognized that when a student attains reasonable skill in the language of painting (rendering the drawing, values and color seen in nature), it is then necessary to use this ability to create works of art. Art is created primarily through design and drawing (fine drawing being, to a great extent, informed by the principles of design). This requires that the subject chosen by the artist be composed and designed with purpose, care and expertise. Without a sophisticated design, the most subtle nuances of rendering are of little or no effect, merely the work of a diligent student. It is sophisticated design that elevates this rendering into the realm of enduring and expressive art.
Continue reading Pictorial Design
Stephen Gjertson recently completed A Passion for Books, the portrait of a Dallas businessman’s three children.
A Passion for Books, 2010, oil on canvas, 36 x 54. Private collection.
TRIAD: Three American Painters, L - R: Stephen Gjertson, Kirk Richards and Steve Armes.
Triad: Three American Painters II opened at the Newington-Cropsey Foundation Gallery of Art on Sunday, September 12th, 2010. The exhibition ran from September 13 through November 5, M – F, 1:00 – 5:00 p.m., 25 Cropsey Lane, Hastings-on-Hudson, NY. Continue reading TRIAD: Three American Painters II
Gjertson with Reading (left) and a study for Helen of Troy (right).
Stephen Gjertson was among fourteen artists selected to participate in the first Minneapolis Club Artist Night exhibition on September 14th, 2010. The exhibition was well-attended by members and guests of the club.
Richard Lack: Triptych
Richard Lack considered Triptych and The Interior Journey his most important works. He worked on these two series of paintings for over thirty years. He had learned of Swiss psychologist Carl Jung while studying with Boston artist R. H. Ives Gammell, who painted two significant and ground breaking series of paintings utilizing symbols and concepts developed by Jung: The Hound of Heaven and Fragments of an Uncompleted Cycle. Lack felt that he was building upon Gammell’s artistic foundation and further developing the depiction of universal ideas through symbolic imagery. Continue reading Richard Lack’s Most Important Work
Stephen Gjertson, Kirk Richards and Steve Armes gave Power-Point presentations about their artistic traditions and art at The Grand Central Academy of Art in New York at 4:00 p.m. on Friday, September 10, 2010.
TRIAD, L-R: Kirk Richards, Steve Armes, Stephen Gjertson.
The Grand Central Academy of Art
20 West 44th Street
New York, NY 10036-6603
These presentations coincided with the exhibition
TRIAD: Three American Painters II
The Newington-Cropsey Foundation Gallery of Art
25 Cropsey Lane
Hastings-on-Hudson, NY 10706
Opened on Sunday, September 12, 6:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Exhibition runs from September 13 through November 5, 2010
M – F: 1:00 – 5:00 p.m.
The TRIAD artists hold a panel discussion for students after their presentations at the Grand Central Academy of Art. L-R: Kirk Richards, Stephen Gjertson, Steve Armes.
by Stephen Gjertson
Footnotes are inserted into the text within brackets.
Many are the architectural jewels of Paris. Notable among them are Notre Dame, Versailles and the Louvre. In a city of jewels however, there is none more dazzling than the Opéra Garnier, now more beautiful than ever after its meticulous restoration. Appraisals of the Paris Opéra have ranged from modernism’s charge that it is nothing more than a pastiche of past styles to Garnier’s own view that was a modern synthesis and development of past styles allied with present technology. Garnier designed the Opéra with knowledge, imagination and skill to perfectly fulfill both its aesthetic and functional requirements. It is an authentic expression of its time, a magnificent and resplendent union of architecture, ornament, sculpture and painting. Continue reading The Paris Opéra: Charles Garnier’s Opulent Architectural Masterpiece
Leigh sketching in the Southwest. Leigh Collection, Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa.
by Stephen Gjertson
Buffalo Mother, n.d. Oil on canvas, 36 x 48. Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa.
For some of those interested in art of the American West, the name of William R. Leigh conjures up dramatic images of bucking broncos, buffalo stampedes, Indian fights and cowboys riding hell-bent-for-leather. Others see gentle images of everyday Navaho and Hopi Indian life in the Southwest: mothers and children, goat herders, weavers or courting lovers. Still others think of intense confrontations between man and beast or beast and beast: hunters rescuing a friend from a ruthless grizzly held at bay by snarling dogs, elephants stampeding after terrified natives, a horse startled by a rattle snake or a buffalo mother defending her calf against vicious wolves. Whatever images his name arouses in the mind, be they stirring or serene, it has been said that no artist has painted the Old West more faithfully and magnificently than William Robinson Leigh. Continue reading Frontiers of Enchantment: The Outdoor Studies of William R. Leigh
by Stephen Gjertson
The Origin of the Phrase
Stephen Gjertson, The Folly of Samson, 2005. Oil on canvas, 46 x 66.
The expression “Classical Realism” originated with Minneapolis artist Richard Lack (1928-2009). Lack studied with Boston artist R. H. Ives Gammell (1893-1981) during the early 1950s. In 1967 he established Atelier Lack, a studio-school of fine art patterned after the ateliers of 19th-century Paris and the teaching of the Boston impressionists. By 1980 he had trained a significant group of young painters. In 1982, they organized a traveling exhibition of their work and that of other artists within the artistic tradition represented by Gammell, Lack and their students. Lack was asked by Vern Swanson, director of the Springville Museum, Springville, Utah, (the exhibition’s originating venue), to coin a term that would differentiate the realism of the heirs of the Boston tradition from that of other representational artists. Although he was reluctant to label this work, Lack chose the expression “Classical Realism.” It was first used in the title of that exhibition: Classical Realism: The Other Twentieth Century.
Continue reading Classical Realism: A Living Artistic Tradition
by Stephen Gjertson. Written on the occasion of Richard Lack’s 80th birthday.
Richard Lack in his studio, c. 1971.
It’s difficult to say anything about Richard Lack that I have not already stated in his biography or the essays on my student years and the ateliers of Gammell and Lack. I was one of the students in his first cohesive group—that is, the first group of students who studied with him for an extended period. In my case, from 1971-1975. Like so many of the students who came after us, we came to Mr. Lack from bitter and adverse experiences in colleges, universities and art schools; in some cases, from bad experiences with Ives Gammell himself. Ours was an experimental group, on which Mr. Lack was testing the method of study he learned from Gammell. In a sense, we also tested him: his patience and endurance with a group of frustrated students who already had definite views about art and the direction we wanted to take in our future careers. Nevertheless, we were all grateful to have found him, and without his instruction our work would now be amateurish and crude. He was always the consummate professional and treated us with respect, unless we acted in outlandish and rebellious ways. Then he would give us his advice and let us make our own decisions—unfortunately, more often than not, to our detriment. Continue reading Richard Lack (1928-2009): A Reminiscence