Daniel Graves and the Continuum
Prodigy, the Young Artist charcoal sketch
We have, all of us, inherited our languages - they precede us and we do not own them. But in their ancient wisdom they encircle us in a sense of identity and coherency and they are the stage, the platform, the springboard from which we launch our ideas. Languages gift us the ability to express the individuality that is contained inside of us in the outside world.
One such life force language is the classical tradition of realist art, an ongoing dialogue that has been on the tip of the brush for generations of artists. A continuum of masters and students, students who became masters, learning, absorbing, embodying and then teaching the trinity of Intellect, Justice and Heart that underpins this deep rooted and exacting tradition. It is a language that has been reborn again and again, rising like a phoneix from the ashes of time.
For more than 40 years artist Daniel Graves, Founder and Director of the Florence Academy of Art has lived and breathed the language that is the classical realist tradition as a devoted way of life. Reflection recalls that John Ruskin the eminent English art critic once said, “all great art is in praise of something we love”, this is one of the most important concepts for an artist to contemplate Daniel upholds,
‘As artists we are called to contemplate and consider the significance of why we are doing what we are doing — our intent. It is through our humanistic connection between the subject matter and what we paint that this intent is made visible. Our paintings become an open dialogue between artist and viewer. Learning the classical techniques opens the door to express, through our chosen medium, what matters most to all of us. We reflect upon questions like, ‘What is it to be human? What are our values? What makes us aspire to be a better person?’ This is the Continuum.’ i
Over the years Daniel has served as a protector of the flame of the classical tradition against a relentless torrent of tempestuous and fickle contemporary climates. Today a decades spanning (1983-2019) exhibition of his own work, which Daniel has entitled ‘Continuum’ hangs in the hallowed halls of The Accademia, founded by Giorgio Vasari this academy has since housed members like Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, enrolled because they were drawn to contributing to their times, to the needs of both the soul and the body, through their mastery of the art of colour, painting, drawing and sculpture. Daniel contemplates, “This exhibition reflects the story of my life: my deeply felt connection to Florence and the artistic traditions that have been upheld here for so many centuries.” ii
When Daniel arrived in Italy there were only a few remaining threads of the classical tradition in Italy, bits and pieces - echoes of the past. He has since become a respected leader of the movement, a champion of its rebirth, ensuring its values of beauty and meaning for future generations.
‘The values of beauty and meaning are slipping away. We need to be reminded that these things are still important. In the classical tradition, the Intellect, a sense of Justice, and the Heart develop within people as they mature. It is through these values that the artist strives to contribute his or her vision of the world in a way that elevates society. Being a part of the classical tradition is a calling to do something good for others’. iii
This exhibition is not only a present marvel and a retrospective celebration, it is a sign of the future. In its current embodiment of beauty and meaning it fortells of a world where the arts and craftsmanship are fully restored to public consciousness, alive and well in the symbolic and literal passing down of the gift that is this classical tradition. Were it not for Daniel and the united philosophy and community that is the Florence Academy of Art generations of artists might never have encountered these classical techniques, the door to their unique expression in the world.
The intertwined trinity of past, present and future is perfectly contained in ‘Prodigy’ a large mural (260 x 340cm) and a central work to this exhibition that unites the vibrant beating heart and the historic soul of this language and so eloquently captures the philosophy of the Continuum. Below is an oil study for this masterpiece.
Study for Prodigy, oil on linen
‘A young prodigy assists in the construction of a 21st century monument to humanity. She presents her drawing, a phoenix, symbol of rebirth, to a studio of master artists. They turn to acknowledge the accomplished drawing of the student. This moment is chosen to illustrate the “continuum,” the passing of knowledge from master to student…On the table, there are plans for the Monument to Humanity, as well as a scale model, its shape based on a pyramid, with its earthy foundation that builds to a pointed top that recalls our ability to reach higher realms of consciousness. Standing on a platform, a painter begins a painting of refugees crossing the Mediterranean to escape war-torn Syria, in search of a better life. The sculptor works on a Pietà, after Michelangelo’s sculpture in the Accademia, one of our most recognized symbols for forgiveness and redemption’. iiii
With single portraits, multi figure compositions, still life, landscapes and narratives and studies in oils, pencil, charcoal and pastel there is no substitute for visiting this monumental exhibition in person. I recommend that anyone who is in the region of Tuscany in this period attends this exhibition - and if you’re not, book your flight now. It is the first exhibition of this kind in Florence since Daniel arrived here 40 years ago and will run until the 28th of February 2019.
For more information about Daniel Graves and to view a selection of artwork featured in the exhibition click here
For more information about the Florence Academy of Art click here
i. Prodigy exhibition statement
ii. http://www.danielgravespaintings.com/continuum.html (website accessed 19/2/2019)
iii. Prodigy exhibition statement
iiii. Prodigy exhibition statement
Images courtesy of the Florence Academy of Art