This profile from June 2011 of Jacob Collins is one of the best explanations of the classical realism atelier movement I’ve read. It’s also pretty funny. Collins runs Grand Central Atelier in New York and is a monumental figure in this style of art. My teacher painted with him when he first opened his atelier — at a time when modernism and abstract expressionism (think Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko) had a lingering stranglehold on New York art making. While modernism still corners the market, ateliers like Grand Central Academy and Juliette’s have helped carve out a space for representational and classical traditions.
What’s great about this article is that the writer is Adam Gopnik. A frequent New Yorker arts critic and author with a career of love for modernism behind him, Gopnik meets Collins at a dinner party and is utterly confounded by him. He decides to show up at Collins’ private studio every Friday for a year to attempt learning to draw “the thing in front of [him].” I shared so many of Gopnik’s initial reactions to classical drawing and even deeper reflections on art making. It’s a great perspective from some one outside the classical circle who loves Manet but is nurturing a sneaking affection for Raphael.
The first paragraph:
When I was in the middle of the journey of my life, I decided to learn to draw. No, I wasn’t lost in a dark, enclosing forest, but it was the Manhattan equivalent: a midweek dinner party that had turned the corner to eleven-thirty and now seemed likely never to end at all. The host was a terrific cook, but one of those seven-course terrific cooks, disappearing into the kitchen for a quarter of an hour at a time to execute the latest Ferran Adrià recipe, while we all secretly gripped the underside of the dinner table, realizing that the babysitter meter was running and we would have to be up again in six hours to dress the kids and get them to school… (Continue reading…)
(Featured image: illustration from the New Yorker publication by Barry Blitt)