June 7, 2001 -- Fred Ross, Chairman of the Art Renewal Center,
addressed a crowd of over 700
The art of painting, one of the greatest traditions in all of human history has been under a merciless and relentless assault for the last one hundred years. Every reasonable shred of order and any standards with which it was possible to identify, understand and to create great paintings and sculpture, was degraded ... detested ... desecrated and eviscerated. Modern artists are told that they must create something totally original. Nothing about what they do can ever have been done before in any way shape or form, otherwise they risk being called "derivative". How utterly absurd.These critics like to say Bouguereau's work is really only derivative, harking back to earlier artists. Only in the 20th century has such a thing ever been scorned. To this I have one thing to say: WHAT, dear friends, IS WRONG WITH BEING DERIVATIVE?That's one of the core beliefs of modernism that must be soundly vanquished by common sense and logical analysis. Nobody can accomplish anything of merit if they are in fact not derivative. Only by mastering the accomplishments of the past and then adding to it can we go still further. Every other field of endeavor recognizes this truth. Without the knowledge of the past we are doomed to everlasting primitivism. And, as far as holding our works up to the old masters, that's what we want to have happen. If we are to accomplish things of true merit and excellence, we must germinate and nurture great masters in the next millennium, too. Bouguereau was quite aware that his work would be compared on the altar of past accomplishments, as did his contemporaries. It was precisely because they mastered the techniques of the past, built upon them and then opened them up to an avalanche of new subject matter and Enlightenment ideals, that they accomplished the greatest half-century of painting in art history.