Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Boston School of Artists: The Last Link to the Great Tradition of Figurative Art

by David Clayton
for the New Liturgical Movement

Catholic artist, Henry Wingate will be speaking at Thomas More College, in Merrimack, New Hampshire, this Friday. Wingate is an internationally known portrait and landscape painter and he will be describing his training in the academic method of naturalistic drawing and painting. Rural Virginia based Wingate studied with Paul Ingbretson in Boston and with Charles Cecil in Florence, Italy. Both Ingbretson and Cecil studied under Ives Gammell, the teacher, writer, and painter who kept the traditional atelier method of painting instruction alive, which formed a link back to the Paris ateliers of the 19th century.

The academic method was first developed in Renaissance Italy and was the basis of transmission of the baroque style, described by Pope Benedict XVI as one of three authentically Catholic liturgical artistic traditions (along with the gothic and the iconographic). The method is named after the art academies of the seventeenth century. The most famous early Academy was opened by the Carracci brothers, Annibali, Agostino, and Ludivico, in Bologna in 1600. Their method became the standard for art education and nearly every great Western artist for the next 300 years received, in essence, an academic training. Under the influence of the Impressionists the method almost died out (they refused to pass it on to their pupils, although they were trained in it themselves and used it in their own art!). The fact that it survives at all is largely the legacy of the Boston group of figurative artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, most prominent among them John Singer Sargent (who was trained in Paris, but mixed with them). It was from this Boston school that Ives Gammell received his training. Wingate will describe the artists and how their method has remained with us today. New England has perhaps the greatest concentration of work by these artists, and Henry will show us where we can see them in the museums of Maine, New Hampshire (where Thomas More College is) and Massachussetts.

Of course, preserving the technique is only part of the process of reestablishing the Catholic tradition of naturalism that we see in the baroque. The other is to understand how the visual vocabulary of the tradition communicates a Catholic worldview, rooted in the liturgy. Thomas More College’s Way of Beauty teaches this and their Way of Beauty Atelier will offer a summer school to any who are interested in learning traditional technique in the two Catholic traditions of iconography and academic drawing, as well as the underlying theology. Wingate (see left) will teach this along with the regular faculty at Thomas More College. This will be of interest to a larger group of people than simply artists. There are special courses as well for who are interested in art – the group from whom will come the future patrons of the arts who have as much a role to play, if not an even greater one, in the reestablishment of a culture of beauty as the artist.

For the work of Henry Wingate, see:

For further details of the Way of Beauty Atelier Summer School at Thomas More College, see:

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