Beyond Realism

“Realism” is hard to learn. It takes a great deal of effort, concentration, and persistence to acquire. There are art schools and curricula dedicated to “realism”, and they reliably produce skilled painters and draftsmen. However, there is also a low-key ideological cult of “realism” as the only true, objective measure of art and artists.

Why do I put “realism” in quotes? Well, what do we mean by “real”? The term itself is a classic example of begging the question. “Realism” as an artistic concept is infused with a lot of value judgement. Depending on your personal philosophy, it can be easy to conflate “realistic art” with some kind of higher intellectual truth. But if one technical approach is called “realism,” does that make other approaches “unreal”? Invoking “realism” as a category or priority is usually a chauvinistic loyalty to a certain type of artistic interpretation, not an appeal to truth in itself.

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