Justin Wood (b. 1982),
Justin Wood (b. 1982), "Pears," 2022, oil on canvas on board, 14 x 18 in., available through the artist

In celebration of Fine Art Connoisseur’s 20th anniversary in 2023, we invited our esteemed colleague Milène J. Fernández to consider, in her own words, the state of contemporary realism in art today.

Is this a Golden Age for Realism?

By Milène J. Fernández

It is a bit daunting to survey the lay of the land of America’s realist art world, and of course, I can offer only a glimpse based on my own observations. Having said that, I am delighted to highlight here some of the trends, people, and venues holding my attention at this time. I hope this summary will give you some impetus to seek out the artworks that resonate most with you.

contemporary realism clouds
Adriano Farinella (b. 1975), “Vows Made in Storms Are Forgotten in Calm — Indigo 75,” 2022, oil on canvas, 30 x 40 in., available through the artist

Beauty is in the air.

Before I started writing this, I called my friend Victoria Herrera. She’s known for her gigantic paintings of luminous hibiscus flowers, as well as portraits with intriguing, seemingly allegorical elements. Since studying at New York City’s Grand Central Atelier, Victoria has honed her distinctive visual language and is now challenging herself to explore different subject matter. When I sought her thoughts on realist art’s current zeitgeist, she immediately replied: “There’s a call to create beauty. It is needed so much right now!” I agreed wholeheartedly. “And a respect for nature!” Victoria added. “Yes, to counteract all that ugliness,” I responded.

Indeed, beauty with a capital B seems to be filling the creative airwaves. Recently I was asked to write about beauty for the online magazine Crayon, and a few days later I participated in the artist Gabriela Handal’s podcast, where she always asks her guests, “What is beauty?” Around the same time, I was invited to see the exhibition ‘Beauty in the Hamptons’, curated by Shannon Robinson for the nonprofit organization Collectors for Connoisseurship.

Her exhibition on Long Island featured 10 artists, including Quang Ho, whose “Autumn Spirit” — a painting of a nude woman experiencing a moment of ecstatic revelation in tall grasses — reminded me of Jules Bastien-Lepage’s famous “Joan of Arc Listening to the Voices” (1879, Metropolitan Museum of Art). Ho’s work represents what seems to be a current trend of figurative artists combining carefully rendered forms with looser brushwork — so reminiscent of Bastien-Lepage — and sometimes enhanced with the flat abstraction or decorative patterning seen in Gustav Klimt’s paintings. (A portrait by Ron Hicks in the Hamptons exhibition was a striking example of the latter.)

Contemporary realism art - Quang Ho (b. 1963), "Autumn Spirit," 2022, oil on board, 30 x 16 in., available through the artist
Quang Ho (b. 1963), “Autumn Spirit,” 2022, oil on board, 30 x 16 in., available through the artist

I also enjoyed Daniel Sprick’s gentle interior paintings, full of quiet atmosphere; despite his careful rendering of details, they still feel open and vibrant. Several scenes by Charles Warren Mundy stood out for their celebration of light, evoking memories of Joaquín Sorolla. Though the paintings and drawings in the Hamptons show were vastly different in style and technique, they all looked great together under the banner of Beauty.

During our conversation, Victoria and I noted the predominance of electronic images, social media, and fakery; we are all beset with fake personas, fake valuations, fake art. There is much confusion as to what is real or not, and it takes a discerning eye, heart, and mind to tell the difference. Because beauty goes hand in hand with authenticity, it has also become a way for artists to give us an antidote to fakery, to help us eschew counterfeit culture altogether.

Rachel Li (b. 1995), "The Silk Wrap," 2022, oil on panel, 24 x 18 in., permanent collection of the New Salem Museum & Academy of Fine Art (Massachusetts)
Rachel Li (b. 1995), “The Silk Wrap,” 2022, oil on panel, 24 x 18 in., permanent collection of the New Salem Museum & Academy of Fine Art (Massachusetts)

Beauty, then, is a theme in our field, but let’s not call it a trend; rather, it is a timeless principle. The best artists are those who don’t follow trends but cultivate honesty in their creative process. They are not so interested in themselves or how they portray themselves, but in what they want to communicate with the viewer. They have something to say, and their works connect with us.

Continue reading this article on realism art in the January/February 2023 issue of Fine Art Connoisseur magazine.

View more artist and collector profiles here at FineArtConnoisseur.com.


  1. I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on the current state of realism in art and media. I couldn’t agree more – I think we are truly in a golden age for realism right now. The level of detail and lifelike quality that artists and creators are able to achieve these days is truly remarkable. The advancements in technology, from photorealistic rendering to motion capture, have really elevated the realism bar. And the way that realism is being used not just for surface-level visual effects, but to drive deeper narrative and emotional experiences, is just captivating.


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