By Bridget Manzella
Ryan S. Brown’s paintings arrived in Charleston, South Carolina, on November 26th after having traveled 2,000 odd miles from Springville, Utah, under the attentive eye of Margaret Kruger, owner of M Gallery of Fine Art. As Ms. Kruger and I admired each of Brown’s newly arrived paintings, we understood that his work would further tip the scales of the art world towards a realist revival that already has a firm grip here in the Holy City. Ms. Kruger then led me beyond the chaos that had become the gallery to the moving truck where “Kaaterskill Clove” was still cradled in its packing blankets.
At 4.5 feet high and a little over 9 feet wide, its massive frame filled the bed of the truck, leaving little room for admiring eyes. Maggie urged me to climb up beside it so that I could get a good look. Even as I peered inside, I could already see the refinement of this magnificent work—the masterful handling of light and subtle brushwork—that despite its size, loses nothing, concedes nothing. Suddenly I was transported from the utility of the truck to the romance of the Catskills. The rushing water as it cascades over the painted rocks actually filled my ears. From behind me, I heard Ms. Kruger say, as though from a great distance, “I believe that the arrival of [Ryan S. Brown’s work] is one of the most historically significant moments in Charleston’s art world. “
The idea for “Kaaterskill Clove” began the first year Brown was awarded the Hudson River School Fellowship. For one month, he painted in the Catskills, following in the footsteps of the Hudson River School painters he admired. During that time, he studied at different locations, trying to find areas that resonated with him. He finally settled on a spot in Kaaterskill Clove looking upstream. He did a number of studies at this site of specific details of the greater scene, which will hang with the larger work at M Gallery of Fine Art.
The following summer, Brown returned to the Catskills for three weeks to make more studies. Once back in the studio, he compiled all the studies into a final compositional sketch. The composition is not a portrait of the scene, but rather a compilation of many elements in and around Kaaterskill Clove that give a broader view of the area. “The process of making this painting has helped me tie myself to the traditions and ideals of the original Hudson River School painters in a way that I don’t think I could have otherwise achieved,” Brown explains, “ It is my hope that viewers will get a similar sense of awe and respect for nature when viewing this piece as I felt when I was there.
Ryan S. Brown’s “A Painter’s Inspiration,” (featured in Plein Air magazine) a plein air painting of fellow artist Jordan Sokol, will also hang at M Gallery of Fine Art, along with “The Loneliness of Waiting,” a work that places a rather dreamy looking woman in a Florentine courtyard. Last, but certainly not least, “The Fox Stole,” a portrait of a woman with a 1920’s bob but a contemporary elegance, will also be on display.
Although Ryan resists the “isms” scholars have used to place artist and art within a historical and cultural framework, there are certain things that can definitively be said about Brown’s work—things that need to be said in order to recognize the impact of his work and the contemporary realist revival. The most important recognition is that Ryan S. Brown fits into a greater movement in art towards formal, academic training acquired through the transmission of skills from master to pupil—a practice that can be seen as classical in nature. “I don’t know where I fit into all of this, or where others might categorize my work,” admits Brown, “It is my goal to have the skills necessary to react to nature and narratives in a personal way that communicates clearly to a wide audience…I also want a controlled level of refinement that allows for further contemplation beyond just the initial impression.”
Not since the Renaissance has there been such an awakening: a movement towards classical training, which can be seen most clearly in the revival of the atelier. The atelier method is centered on realism and the acquisition of fundamental skills before exploring personal expression. Ryan S. Brown ran one such atelier, having opened his studio for the first time in 2003. During the three years that the Classical Drawing Academy was open, Ryan saw more than 80 students come through his studio to study privately and experience this training.
Since then, Brown has established the Center for Academic Study and Naturalist Painting (CAS), in Springville, Utah, a school firmly rooted in the classical and naturalist ideals of the 19th Century. Brown is the director of this school and its main instructor. This Academy teaches the same classical techniques and methods of drawing and painting taught at the best ateliers and academies in the world, rooting Brown in a cross-cultural and multi-generational movement.
Ryan S. Brown was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah. In 2002, he graduated with a BFA in Illustration from Brigham Young University. In 2003, he began his studies at the Florence Academy of Art. Brown taught academic principles at BYU and UVU, teaching figure drawing, observational and spatial drawing and cast drawing. He also taught at the Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art, culminating in an academic drawing workshop in 2006. Ryan graduated from the FAA in 2008, winning “Painting of the Year”. Brown established the Classical Drawing Academy in Springville, Utah as well as the Center for Academic Study and Naturalist Painting (CAS).
Ryan S. Brown was the top award winner of the John F. and Anna Lee Stacey scholarship in 2004. He received third place in the Art Renewal Scholarship competition in 2005. In 2006 he was one of ten artists to be invited by American Artist Magazine to the Forbes Trinchera Ranch for a nine-day retreat that was followed a showing of these select artist’s works at the Forbes Gallery in New York. Brown won Fourth Place in the Art Renewal Center Scholarship Competition and was featured in the May, 2008 issue of Southwest Art as “A Rising Artist to Watch”. He won the “Best Painting of the Year” at the Florence Academy of Art in 2008 as well as the President’s award.