As part of my continuing effort to write and think more about good contemporary art, here are two paintings from one of the masters of contemporary realism, Jacob Collins. Like me, Collins studied at the Art Students’ League of New York and, also like me, he has a BA degree in history rather than fine art (although his degree is from Columbia). I feel his unusual academic background is apparent in his works which, despite portraying the same subjects which are always the focus of realistic paintings, have an extremely thoughtful and somber quality. The quiet pensiveness of the nude Christian model at the top suggests a deeper truth about the meaning and brevity of life than the average studio nude. The jagged tumult of red and green brushstrokes below is revealed to be a perfect realist still life of freshly dug beets. Swift precise strokes of complementary color swirl together to suddenly become a mundane item. Through the magic of Collins’ brush, making borscht becomes an experience of beauty. One is reminded of Chardin, about whom Proust wrote “Until I saw Chardin’s painting, I never realized how much beauty lay around me in my parents’ house, in the half-cleared table, in the corner of a tablecloth left awry, in the knife beside the empty oyster shell.”
Collins was born in 1964 in New York City. It seems he quickly learned the city’s lessons of social networking and constant hard work because he has a remarkable artistic resume (which can be found at his website along with galleries of his lovely still lifes, landscapes, and portraits) and he is married to a very successful writer. Perhaps I should learn not just from his bravura impasto but from his obvious diligence and organization. It’s time to get back to painting and putting up my own art website!