In a remarkably short period
of time, Jeremy Lipking has emerged as one of the country's premier
realist artists. His talent, which rivals that of the late nineteenth
century painterly realists such as John Singer Sargent, Joaquin
Sorolla and Anders Zorn, is outstanding for a painter of any
age. It is all the more remarkable since he is only thirty years
old. Like these great painters of the past, Lipking is a virtuoso
artist. His canvases convey the magical aura of convincing imagery
emerging out of a field of paint.
Realism has been misunderstood
through most of the twentieth century as an art of imitation.
In truth, when practiced by a painter like Jeremy Lipking, realist
painting is a powerful creative force. Many viewers are drawn
to his art thinking that it looks just like a photograph. Actually
Lipking's vision is the opposite of what a camera does. A photograph
tends to flatten an image, reducing all relationships of color
and shade to a stiff mechanical pattern. Lipking's skill lies
in his ability to probe in and around his subject. With a highly
sensitive eye, he sees nuances of value and hue that the camera
and most people can never see. More incredibly, he is able to
translate his highly nuanced vision into a painted image. Lipking's
true subject is his pictorial fluency. Seeing one of his paintings
involves entering into the pictorial world he has created. Like
all great realists, he has the ability to generate powerful fictions.
I have had the pleasure to watch
Lipking paint on a number of occasions. The experience is both
exhilarating and baffling. Lipking begins his paintings in a
surprisingly loose, painterly manner-something I never would
have expected. He makes initial marks to find the scale and proportions
of his subject. Then he applies a broad underpainting of color
to capture the desired hue and value. At this stage his paintings
look almost abstract, consisting of a pattern of large color
Lipking's characteristic brushwork
or gesture is what I like to call the "open touch."
What I mean by this phrase is that Lipking applies paint in broad,
loose facets, often leaving areas of bare canvas in between.
In subsequent additions the open areas are gradually filled in,
creating a breathing lattice-like structure of paint. In a curious
way, the method is somewhat like Cezanne's manner. But whereas
Cezanne emphasized the discontinuity of his touches, Lipking
works with close values, so that the result is a seamless veil
The magic occurs in the finish.
As he progresses, he gradually refines each area, adjusting relationships
of color and adding deft touches to define select elements. He
brings certain forms to a razor sharp level of finish. Other
passages are left vague and undefined. In this interplay of sharp
and loose, the painting literally opens up and breathes. This
is what makes his art seem so lifelike. Instead of resting as
static images, his canvases pulse with the subtle energy of a