VIEWSrnRomantic RealismrnVisions of Valuesrnby Alexandra Yorkrn” ‘/Jrn’V ‘-^ ^’^f^ ^g^^rn^iS%rn’* war _Mrn••AT -^rnWhen we recall the great artists of the 19th century,rnperhaps the vibrant and theatrical images of Delacroixrncome to mind. Or do scenes of daring and struggle fromrnHugo flood our memory instead? Or the ebullient audacity ofrna Schunrann song resonate in our ears? Perhaps all three, andrnmore, for theirs was the dramatic, exuberant age of the individual,rnin life and in art, which was “larger than life.”rnHow different arc the images of our own generation. ‘Ibday,rnin a culture that glorifies violence, vulgarity, and ugliness—rnwhere art has become bereft of any objective standards—wernwitness a sad scene as most artists flounder to a graceless finishrnof the 20th century. They are not alone, hitellectuals,rnpublic officials, and almost everyone approach this millennialrnbirthday warily. Shall there be cause for celebration—orrngreater trauma?rnThe hot ashes of 20th-century collectivism and nihilismrnstill spit and sputter around us, but ashes they are. The 1990’srnsignal not only the end of a turbulent century, but also thernswift death of communism as a social system and the drawnoutrndemise of the serious modernist art movement, both ofrnwhich dominated the period. The future? Some dare to hope,rnfor we are beginning to witness a resurgence of certain hallnrarksrnof the 19th century: a concern for individual freedom inrnsociety and a romantic spirit in the arts.rnRenewed appropriately, these values could lead us out of ourrnpresent morass and beyond, to a veritable renaissance. Wcrnhear the word “renaissance” tossed about carelessly these daysrnsimply because we approach the turn of a century, but in factrnthe concept holds true currency. Glimmering here and therernbeneath the debris of 20th-eentury collapse, sparks of individualismrnand humanism wait only for a breath of air to flamernand fuse them once more into a phoenix that may rise to leadrnus into the 21 st century. If this is to be so, then beauty mustrnbe its wings. A restoration of beauty and life-affirming valuesrnin art alone cannot forge the path to a full cultural renaissancern—only philosophy can do that—but art that makes manifestrnthese values can inspire us by embodying our ideals inrnconcrete form, hideed, art may be the one dynamic powerfulrnAlexandra York is a writer and the founder and president ofrnAmerican Renaissance for the Twenty-First Century (ART),rna nonprofit foundation in New York devoted to bringingrnbeauty and values back to the fine arts.rnenough to envision the way to a better future.rnA renaissance, however, is not a “revival.” The word meansrn”rebirth.” Wc cannot and should not seek to repeat the past.rnNo matter how groundbreaking was ancient Greece nor howrnbrilliant the Italian Renaissance nor how progressive the Enlightenment,rnwe must begin here and now. We must preparernthe intellectual soil—in our own land, in our own contextrn—to produce our own unique flowering of the values thatrnmade those great periods of history so significant for all time.rnThis nreans that, in art, a fresh understanding of romanticismrnmust be advanced and new implications reflecting contemporaryrnsensibilities sought. As “modernism” contrived to putrna modern face on primitivism and mysticism, so must romanticismrnnow refresh images of reason and provide an affirmativernview of human life on earth.rnWe do not plant our seeds in an Enchanted Garden. Like itrnor not, the present environment is what it is. Art has becomerna commodity cannibalizing itself daily in order to survive withoutrnany fresh source of ideological sustenance. Allegiance tornhuman values, to discipline of technical skills, and to a love ofrnbeauty would appear to be the radical art ideas of our time.rnGontcmporary artists of the Romantic Realism persuasion arernthe new “radicals,” for they embrace these very premises andrnexpress them—each individually—in their work. Philosophically,rnthey view the world as a positive and beautiful placernand man as capable of living in it. Psychologically, they believernreason and emotion can be harmonized with each other. Artistically,rnthey unify form and content in the same way—andrnfor the same reasons—that they unite reason and emotion.rnThrough examining these premises as expressed in the work ofrnRomantic Realist artists, we may attempt to point the way torndefinition and understanding.rnIn a broad swath, we may say that the best contemporaryrnRomantic Realists weave into their work the greatest beauty ofrnnature and the highest thoughts of man; beauty enhancesrntruth, and truth strengthens beauty—weft and warp are tightlyrnentwined, lb disassemble this intricate tapestrv for thernpurpose of understanding its construction takes patience. Andrnto further unravel the tangled mess of the present art world inrnwhich Romantic Realists find themselves takes nothing lessrnthan fortitude.rnLet us begin with the term Romantic Realism. Realism inrnart may be divided into a wide variety of subcategories: “Clas-rnMARCH 1993/15rnrnrn