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 shapes.
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
This is what makes his art seem so lifelike. Instead of resting
as static images, his canvases pulse with the subtle energy of
a living thing.