Date of Award
Master of Fine Arts (MFA)
Contemporary criticism often describes realist paintings as facsimiles of our world, mimetic copies of a shared reality. Cast as a singular approach to painting that, with practice, any artist may adopt, realism is seen as an easy way out, which has been superseded by more complicated, advanced, and abstract visual languages. It is in this context that describing a painting as “realistic” becomes a backhanded compliment— recognition of acquired skill, but a jab to creativity—and all the more of a slight given the value that contemporary art has placed on de-skilling.
These blanket statements around realism misrepresent the tradition, diminishing its complexities and its power. Realism is not monolithic. Rather, different realisms are identifiable throughout art history and new modes continue to evolve today. They are united in so far as they are all lenses with which to experience a relatable world, but each lens is unique to the painter who forges it. This written compendium to my thesis work seeks to describe my particular lens.
Goldfeld, Ada, "To see again" (2018). Masters Theses. 279.
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