The artist reviving the exquisite techniques of the Old Masters

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Beautiful, maybe youre right but I think I wouldnt have picked up on the stuffiness if it wasnt pointed out. Hes got a great point although I didnt read the main article or check the link yet. Later.

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There’s a whole group of artists for whom being a dick about Modernism is one of their defining characteristics.


…and there always has been.


Do you know the Norwegian artist Odd Nerdrum? He uses Old Master techniques but often in surprising and subversive ways. Check out his “Murder of Andreas Baader” for example.

Odd Nerdrum: The Murder of Andreas Baader


People have been reviving retconning the exquisite techniques of the Old Masters since about 1650.


There is one country in the world where traditional oil painting enjoys support at the highest levels.

North Korea.


Damn kids need to get the hell off my landscape.


The problem is that most modern art is rubbish, no matter what era you happen to be in. Typically only the good stuff survives, so survivor bias persuades us that things were better in the past. The stuff that wasn’t any good ended up in the classical, medieval or renaissance equivalent of the skip.

But, as my art master at school used to say, there’s another problem; it takes society about 150 years to catch up with what artists are doing and agree generally on what is good. So good stuff may be lost in that period, but equally we tend to see (currently) the mid-19th century as the golden age, because that’s the period that the general public has absorbed.


The samples of Collins’ paintings that accompanied the article got me thinking, so I went to his official website and looked through the galleries.

And sure enough: it’s not just that his technique is conservative, but his chosen subject matter is deliberately restricted to the kind of thing that would not look out of place in one of the Old Masters’ paintings.

Nothing he paints is obviously of the 21st century. Unless you’re looking carefully – and sometimes not even then – everything seems to date back to, at the latest, the late 19th.

For all his interest in technique, there are whole swaths of the actually existing world he just doesn’t want to paint – and probably can’t. He’s like the Mark Helprin of painters.


And nowadays many of them self-identify as Stuckists. As in Stuckism. Yes, you’re reading that right— a critical mass of artists decided that their aesthetic conservatism deserved an –ism. Modernism is dead; long live Modernism.


Good. Postmodern sucks anyway.


I have always wondered how you can be postmodern. But then there are actually roads that are named New Road, which suggests a lack of imagination approaching criticality.


I think that’s a little unfair to the Stuckists. Correct me if I’m wrong but weren’t they partly a response to Charles Saatchi’s attempt to create “Britart”, which an awful lot of people (I confess to being one of them) regard as complete bunk? One of the things about Britart is that the “artists” don’t do the work themselves - Tracy Emin’s bed was embroidered by someone else, Hirst’s cow was cut up and envitrined by specialists. The Stuckists seem really to be about insisting that people actually do their own work, and are pro-modernism.

Britart seemed to be a bit advertising-driven, and it was only when there was a big fire at a warehouse full of the stuff and the general reaction was one of amusement, that art critics suddenly started noticing that perhaps the king was as naked as the day that he was born.



You are spot-on about its origins and I can see how the phrase ‘aesthetic conservatism’ might come across as simplistic in describing the movement as a whole. Still, from what I’ve read of the movement (and perhaps I haven’t read enough), there are many Stuckists who seem to reject anything non-figurative and put painting on a pedestal.

I can’t fault their assertion that the artist does the brunt of the work (and those who do deserve some of the credit), but I suspect that bisecting an adult cow and preserving it requires more than just a primer on procedure. Some things really are best left to the professionals and putting their names next to that of the artist who envisioned the finished work would be a tidy way of acknowledging that while allowing for the apparent divide in conceptualization and fabrication in contemporary art.

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That’s seems like a very romantic view of art, considering that already back in the Renaissance famous artists were running small companies with numerous assistants and trainees. If they insist that someone like Hirst does his own work where do they draw the line? Does he have to hunt the shark? Does he have to build the tank? Produce the glass?

I really appreciate craft but it’s just a means to express ideas and concepts. People like Collins seem to fetishize craft to the point of banality. It’s like playing scales on a piano very fast and accurate and then calling it music.


All I know is that unless you have young men coming over and grinding your paints you’re not really as committed to old techniques as you should be.




Mostly a conservative, grumpy artistic position to take that’s pretty ignorable.

I bet he’s a Trump supporter.