Pulling Back the Curtain, by Fred Ross
Hello every one I thought I would share this talk by Fred Ross from the Art Renewal Center with you. I think you might find it interesting.
“ARC Chairman speaks at the Met
June 7, 2001 — Fred Ross, Chairman of the Art Renewal Center, addressed a crowd of over 700 portrait artists, gallery owners and members of the press today at America’s premier institution of art, the Metropolitan Museum in New York, at the American Society of Portrait Artists (ASOPA) Conference. Mr Ross was interrupted at least 10 times to thunderous applause or peals of laughter, as he blasted Modernism and its chief icons, Picasso, Mattisse and DeKooning, with some of the most biting, yet truthful satire that has ever been heard in those sanctified halls.”
THANK YOU Arnold, Allan, Richard and all you other friends who recommended that I speak here tonight.
As I talk, the slides you will see are examples of some of the greatest paintings in the entire history of art. Nearly all are from the 19th century, and are by formerly vilified academy masters who were world famous in their own day, then degraded and mocked during most of the 20th century, and are once again being recognized as amongst history’s all time greats: William Bouguereau, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, John William Waterhouse, Frederick Lord Leighton, Ernst Louis Meissonnier, Edward Coley Burne-Jones, Frank Dicksee, Jules Joseph Tissot, John William Godward, and others whose names you may or may not know. World-class masterpieces by some of history’s greatest painters … scores of them, by geniuses of the first rank, who were willfully written out of history by ideologues … Modernist historians, themselves undeserving of their titles and credentials.
Ladies and Gentlemen … Artists,
The art of painting, one of the greatest traditions in all of human history has been under a merciless and relentless assault for the last one hundred years. I’m referring to the accumulated knowledge of over 2500 hundred years, spanning from Ancient Greece to the early Renaissance and through to the extraordinary pinnacles of artistic achievement seen in the High Renaissance, 17th century Dutch, and the great 19th century Academies of Europe and America. These traditions, just when they were at their absolute zenith, at a peak of achievement, seemingly unbeatable and unstoppable, hit the twentieth century at full stride, and then … fell off a cliff, and smashed to pieces on the rocks below. Since World War I the contemporary visual arts as represented in Museum exhibitions, University Art Departments, and journalistic art criticism became little more than juvenile, repetitive exercises at proving to the former adult world that they could do whatever they damn well wanted … sadly devolving ever downwards into a distorted, contrived and contorted notion of freedom of expression. Freedom of expression? Ironically, this so-called “freedom” as embodied in Modernism, rather than a form of “expression” in truth became a form of “suppression” and “oppression.” Modernism as we know it, ultimately became the most oppressive and restrictive system of thought in all of art history.
Every reasonable shred of order and any standards with which it was possible to identify, understand and to create great paintings and sculpture, was degraded … detested … desecrated and eviscerated. The backbone of the painters’ craft, namely drawing, was thrown into the trash along with modeling, perspective, illusion, recognizable objects or elements from the real world, and with it the ability to capture, exhibit, and poetically express subjects and themes about mankind and the human condition and about man’s trials on this speck of stardust called Earth … Earth, hurtling through infinity with all of us along on board, along with everything we know and everything we hold dear.
Reason … philosophy … religion … literature … fantasy … dreams, and all of the feelings, emotions and pathos of our every day lives … all of it was no longer worthy of the painter’s craft. Any hint by the artist at trying to portray such things was branded as banal, maudlin, photographic, illustration, or petty sentimentality.
Our children, going supposedly to the finest universities in the world, being taught by professors with Bachelors or Arts, Masters of Arts, Masters of Fine Arts, Masters of Art Education … even Doctoral degrees, our children instead have been subjected to methodical brain-washing and taught to deny the evidence of their own senses. Taught that Mattisse, Cézanne, and Picasso, along with their followers, were the most brilliant artists in all of history. Why? Because they weren’t telling us lies like the traditional painters, of course. They weren’t trying to make us believe that we were looking at scenes in reality, or at scenes from the imagination, from fantasy or from dreams. They were telling us the truth. They were telling it like it is. They spent their lives and careers on something that was not banal, and not silly, insipid or inane. They in fact provided the world with the most ingenious of all breakthroughs in the history of artistic thought. Even the great scientific achievements of the industrial revolution paled before their brilliant discovery. And what was that discovery for which they have been raised above Bouguereau, exalted over Gérôme, and celebrated beyond Ingres, David, Constable, Fragonard, Van Dyck, and Gainsborough or Poussin? Why in fact were they heralded to the absolute zenith … the tiptop of human achievement … being worthy even of placement shoulder to shoulder on pedestals right beside Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Leonardo, Caravaggio, Vermeer and Raphael? What did they do? Why were they glorified practically above all others that ever went before them? Ladies and gentleman, they proved … amazing, incredible, and fantastic as it may seem, they proved that the canvas was flat … flat and very thin … skinny … indeed, not even shallow, lacking any depth or meaning whatsoever.
And the flatter that they proved it to be the greater they were exalted. Cézanne collapsed the landscape, Matisse flattened our homes and our families, and Pollock, Rothko and de Kooning placed it all in a blender and splattered it against the wall. They made even pancakes look fat and chunky by comparison. But this was only part of the breathtaking breakthroughs of modernism … and their offshoots flourished. Abstract expressionism, Cubism, Fauvism, minimalism, ColorField, Conceptual, op-art, pop-art and post modernism … and to understand it all … to understand, took very special people indeed, since the mass of humanity was too ignorant and stupid to understand. Like that famous advertisement in the NY Times said so many years ago … Bad art … or Good art? You be the judge, indeed.
Of course, to justify this whole theoretical paradigm, all the artists that painted recognizable scenes with depth and illusion had to be discredited … and discredited they were, with a virulence and vituperation so scathing and merciless that one would think they must have been messengers of the devil himself to deserve such abuse. And to put the final nail in their coffins, all of their art was banished and their names and accomplishments written right out of history. I graduated with a Master’s in art education from Columbia University, and I’d never heard of Bouguereau, much less that he was President of the Academy and head of the Salon … the most celebrated artist of his time who single handedly, using all of his influence as the most respected leader of art world, opened up L’Ecole Des Beaux Arts and the Salons to women artists for the first time in history.
You can read the rest of it here.