Fantasy Art A New Look at an Ancient Tradition

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David Palumbo b 1982,Terrible Weakness,2012 Oil on wood panel 48 x 36 in. Collection of the artist, who were pleased by Joyner s interest in their work Soon the museum. invited the couple to guest curate At the Edge and indeed roughly 15 per. cent of its checklist has been loaned by the Wilshires themselves with the rest. coming from artists private collectors and institutions. The museum s rationale for mounting the show is rooted in art. historical fact Patrick Wilshire rightly notes Ancient art is rife with nar. rative depictions of gods monsters shining deeds and things crawling. from dark shadows Moreover nearly every world culture since antiq. uity has also created art that illustrates its fairytales and myths among. other narratives To fantasize dream and imagine it seems are. essential aspects of the human condition It should not be forgotten. however that exactly a decade ago the Brooklyn Museum weathered. harsh criticism in the New York art world for presenting the Smithso. nian s touring exhibition Star Wars The Magic of Myth Though some. commentators were ostensibly worried about the ethical implications of. partnering with Lucasfilm most ignored or even derided the fact that. all of the large museums participating in this national tour had rich col. lections of historical art that supported the project s premise myths have. always mattered to visual artists the latest of whom happen to make. films rather than say oil paintings on canvas, In their new project the Wilshires argue that the seed for the art cel. ebrated at IlluXCon was planted in the late 18th century by the Romantics. including S T Coleridge A separate article could be written about how. this played out in literature alone e g Mary Shelley s novel Frankenstein. or The Modern Prometheus of 1818 but if we confine ourselves to visual. art the thread is still easy to follow It leads from William Blake s intense. erotically charged drawings to the apocalyptic tableaux of John Martin. and onward to such Pre Raphaelites as D G Rossetti and J W Waterhouse. with their haunted maidens In London s Royal Academy successful. painters such as Briton Rivi re sustained it while across the Channel in. France and Belgium arose such Symbolists as Gustave Moreau and Fer. nand Khnopff Watching all of this unfold were leaders of what is now. called the Golden Age of Illustration 1880 1920 England s Edmund. Dulac and Arthur Rackham were matched in talent by such Americans as. Dean Cornwell J C Leyendecker Howard Pyle and N C Wyeth As illus. tration s prestige faded Surrealists like Salvador Dal and Ren Magritte. picked up the flag which vanished temporarily with the distracting hor. rors of World War II, After the war the fine art world turned toward abstraction and. other art forms that did not tell stories so imaginative artists increasingly. found work in such fields as pulp fiction comics pin ups and paperback. books Please see the article on Everett Raymond Kinstler on page XX. The Wilshires explain In most of the 20th century if you wanted to do. this kind of painting and tell fantastic stories and if you also wanted to be. able to eat then you had to be an illustrator That was your only option. But from an artistic perspective there is no such thing as an illustrator. Some painters have publishers for clients while others have collectors or. galleries or museums as clients This sensible account reminds us then. that it was primarily snobbery that came to separate fine art from illus. tration illustrators were perceived as working only for commissions not. FINE ART CONNOISSEUR COM July August 2012 59,N C Wyeth 1882 1945.
The King s Henchman,1927 Oil on canvas 41 1 2 x 47 1 2 in. Kelly Collection of American Illustration, for the love of art Yet it must also be acknowledged that. much illustration of the post war period did little to. ingratiate itself with the high minded pulp fiction books. to name just one example were often extremely violent. sexist racist and simple minded traits the broader art. world justly wanted no part of,BRIDGING THE GAP,It is a sign of how complete that bifurcation was. and is that a trained art historian like myself had. never even heard of Frank Frazetta 1928 2010 a hugely. gifted American illustrator cited by the Wilshires as a key. figure in the renaissance of fantasy art from the 1960s. Don Maitz b 1953,Second Drowning,1979 Oil on masonite 34 x 42 in. Collection of the artist,60 FINE ART CONNOISSEUR COM July August 2012.
William Andrew Willy Pogany 1882 1955,Tales of the Persian Genii The Sultan Nisnar. 1917 Watercolor on paper 16 x 12 in,Korshak Collection Orlando. FINE ART CONNOISSEUR COM July August 2012 61,James Gurney b 1958. Garden of Hope,1992 Oil on board 47 x 35 in,Collection of the artist. collector of paintings and sculpture but a closer look confirms that these. art forms share much common ground that can be crossed in the future. particularly in regard to storytelling and the significance of symbols. The Wilshires note that fantasy art is now very hip very of the. moment but just 20 years ago it was nerd land not taken seriously As. public forums for informal learning museums have a duty to explore why. this shift has occurred and to put only the best examples on view for the. uninitiated to consider At the Edge is especially exciting for working artists. because they seldom get to see fantasy art historical or contemporary. in its original form Most were made very carefully but then reproduced. comparatively small or partially obliterated by the clients who commis. sioned them Six years ago when my colleagues and I exhibited the Wyeth. painting illustrated in this article at the Dahesh Museum of Art we were. astonished by its large size and impeccable technique which thoroughly. held their own against the 19th century European paintings hanging. nearby Based in Florence and Toronto the master realist teacher Michael. John Angel b 1946 is not normally the kind of person one would imagine. as a judge at IlluXCon but he has indeed performed that role He observes. In a time when the vast majority of representational art concentrates on. everyday life it is inspiring to see Baroque like action paintings that con. jure ideas of adventure and of spiritual journeying visually replacing to a. large extent the mythological art of past centuries. So what should this kind of art be called It is human nature to. divide and subdivide and sure enough insiders have already found. ways to distinguish fantasy art from say science fiction art to the. extent now that no faction is satisfied with either sobriquet As reported. in the December 2009 issue of Fine Art Connoisseur the painter James. Gurney b 1958 better known as the author illustrator of the success. ful Dinotopia series for young readers has coined the term imaginative. realism defining it as a convincing portrayal of something that can. not be observed directly This useful term is gaining traction within the. field and surely deserves to be used outside it as well. Why not go to Allentown this summer and decide for yourself n. PETER TRIPPI is editor of Fine Art Connoisseur, Information 31 N Fifth Street Allentown PA 18101 610 432 4333 allentownart.
museum org On July 8 artists Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell will discuss their work on. onward At the Edge offers many revelations of this kind packed as it July 22 Peter Trippi will show why the Pre Raphaelites and other British Roman. is with impressive works by artists legendary in the Wilshires world tics continue to inspire fantasy artists on August 12 the illustrator Earle K Bergey. yet still unfamiliar to people who collect paintings in Chelsea or Santa 1901 1952 will be remembered by his writer grandson Joshua David Bergey and on. Fe These starry names include Willy Pogany 1882 1955 Thomas September 9 Delaware Art Museum curator Mary Holahan will highlight the legacy of. Blackshear II b 1955 Justin Sweet b 1966 and Jeremy Caniglia Howard Pyle 1853 1911 The next IlluXCon will occur in Altoona November 8 11. b 1970 though there are many more 2012 but the following edition September 11 15 2013 will be held at the Allentown. The survival of this artificial divide today is particularly galling in the Art Museum. context of our fully digitized society For better or worse fantasy is the sin. gle most visible genre in Hollywood movies today as well as video games Editor s Note For those who want to see more artworks by Don Maitz one is illustrated. and most literature for young people e g Harry Potter It is no accident here the Cornell Museum of Art and American Culture Delray Beach FL is present. that Rupert Sanders who directed one of this summer s big blockbuster ing a solo show of his pirate pictures through October 28 Details are at oldschool org. films Snow White and the Huntsman pitched his project by showing the cornell asp And on view at Washington s Smithsonian American Art Museum through. moneymen a notebook he had filled with Pre Raphaelite paintings and September 30 is The Art of Video Games one of the first exhibitions about them since. Gustave Dor s woodcuts Naturally the Wilshires checklist includes Jordu they emerged 40 years ago Its 80 games were selected by guest curator Chris Melissinos. Schell b 1967 who designed the characters for the box office smash Ava chief gaming officer at Sun Microsystems with input from 119 000 online voters in 175. tar and also Mark Zug b 1959 who has designed collectible card games countries His exhibition will move on to Boca Raton Seattle Phoenix Yonkers Toledo. such as Dune These projects may not necessarily appeal to the average Flint Norfolk Memphis and Miami. A New Look at an Ancient Tradition BY PETER TRIPPI GH S omething fresh is underway this summer at Pennsylvania s Allentown Art Museum of the Lehigh Valley On view through September 9 the exhibition At the Edge Art of the Fantastic marks the first time that works of contemporary fantasy art have appeared in a U S museum exhibition that also includes their historical forerunners In the

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