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June 28, 2009

Casey Baugh: A Really New Realist

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Yes, I'm aware that I've been tending to write about artists active 50-150 years ago and largely ignoring artists who are alive and painting or who departed fairly recently. As a corrective, I'll do some postings about painters whose work I see in magazines such as American Artist, American Art Collector and Art of the West.

The downside is that I've seen little or none of their work in person and mostly rely on reproductions in those magazines or on the Web. That's because their paintings are mostly in the artists' studios, private collections or art galleries rather than in major museums. (Note to self: compile a list of artists and their main galleries and take it along on future trips to California, Arizona and New Mexico. Galleries here in the Seattle area mostly skew modernist.)

The subject of the present post is Casey Baugh, a guy still in his twenties who has impressive technical skills. His Web site is here. An article about him containing useful background material is here.

Below are examples of his work. All show women, but he sometimes paints men; dig through his site to find examples.


Interesting use of cool light on the subject's hair and body planes. I find the treatment of the oriental rug impressive: compare to the rug in Sargent's The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit.

Blue Earring


Red Scarf
This is a demonstration painting. A report on the demonstration is here. Most demonstration paintings I'm familiar with tend to have an unfinished look that's understandable, given the circumstances of their creation. Baugh brought the subject's face to a considerable degree of finish. This also shows that he doesn't painstakingly copy photos -- or doesn't need to, anyway. This guy's skill seems to be for real.

As well as any, this illustrates Baugh's practice of creating smooth faces while leaving backgrounds and clothing treatment looser, more "painterly."

Shades of Yellow


I think it's safe to conclude that Baugh can create knockout babes. But he's young enough that it's hard to tell how his work might evolve.

For instance, he might simply become another Pino, who I wrote about here, an artist of high ability who tends to crank out similar works year after year to make a good living. As I've stated more than once, artists need to make livings just like the rest of us, so I don't get very bothered when I see similarity across works: one often has little choice but to paint what sells.

If an artist is fortunate enough to attain a good income stream, I think it might be nice if he'd once in a while, on his off-hours, try something different. Many artists probably do just that, except those "private" paintings usually don't get seen in public. So we have no way of telling whether Pino and Baugh are beavering away on new styles, themes or whatever they might potentially be up to.

Pino turns 70 this autumn, so his career is pretty well set. Baugh is very young and, I hope, has plenty of time to work on maturity and wisdom. It might be interesting to check back in a few years to find out where his talent is taking him.



posted by Donald at June 28, 2009


I've never met Casey Baugh, and he's probably a nice young guy, but Donald, these paintings are not much more than copied photos! It's clear that for some of the poses, he did use photos.

That's my biggest beef with realistic art these days. Everybody is copying, not really creating. The ateliers teach a copy method, and the alla prima painters do too--but with a little bit of editing and better edge work, that's all. Its so very y-a-w-n!

I'm really negative about the realistic art scene now. Not only is it copy copy copy, but now its also veering off into the same dead ends that killed realism in the early 20th century--modernism and multi-culturalism. I see it moving there day by day.

You won't see any realistic gallery painter venturing into anything different. They have to keep producing similar work to what they've done in the past so that their past work holds its retail value. Its called a "style", or "branding". I know for a fact that a number of the leading painters in hte New Realism movement hitting their forties are burned out on their same ol' subject matter, but they can't change styles now. If they do, they'll take a big hit in sales, and people will start unloading some of their past work. Market glut! Bad news in a down market! Baugh will be painting like this until he needs a walker.

The days of variety are over. They came and went with the great illustration market. That's all but dead now. The great genre scenes of Sargent and Sorolla were done on their own time, with no pressure to make a sale. Once a painter starts selling something regularly, its potboiler time. And since these guys never learned to do anything but basically copy the model (or photos), you will see almost no variety or creativity in the New Realism. Sad but true.

Posted by: BTM on June 28, 2009 7:38 PM

BTM -- My main claims were that Baugh has great technical abilities and that he doesn't need to rely on photos. Given the expense of hiring models, many realist artists take lots of photos and do only a minimum amount of "live" painting.

I am in general agreement that subject matter is a problem for realists (as it is for any artist not dealing in pure abstraction). That's why I hemmed and hawed about Baugh's need for maturity, my implicit thought was that perhaps in the future he could do better than simply creating well-crafted pinups.

Until well into the 19th century a painter was basically an illustrator if he wasn't doing portraits, landscapes or still-lifes. So there were templates for acceptable subjects -- from history, religion, mythology, travel incidents and so forth. Today, even representational fine-artists shy away from such subjects, perhaps to their ultimate cost. Exceptions: certain painters doing war genre or events from car races that appeal to a limited clientele.

That said, even modernists can be slaves to their subject-matter, edgy and counter-cultural that it might be.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on June 28, 2009 8:02 PM

He's got impressive technical ability and boy, he sure picks gorgeous subjects, but there's no life in the paintings shown here.

Posted by: JV on June 28, 2009 8:44 PM

I noticed Baugh gave the red scarf woman a nose job. Ha. It's interesting to see his process though. And my god, the model for that painting is probably the most beautiful woman I've ever seen.

Posted by: JV on June 28, 2009 10:15 PM


Posted by: miles on June 29, 2009 8:41 AM

Pupu's favorite among the seven is the first one of the woman kneeing on the oriental rug. It reminds Pupu of Gerhard Richter's early photograph based paintings but in a much warmer Vermeer like setting.

The rest six are less interesting.

Posted by: Pupu on June 29, 2009 12:46 PM

"subject matter is a problem for realists"

This guy has solved the problem.

Paint attractive young women.

Posted by: Lexington Green on June 29, 2009 3:11 PM

Beautiful women absolutely. Nicely done and I commend his classic style. Keep it up Maestro!

Posted by: E - Sizzle on July 2, 2009 1:05 AM

Copying? child please. . seems likes BTM is one of these people who lack ability and and make a reputation by tearing down artist who actually put in the time learn how to paint. I'd love to see his feeble attempts at representing fleeting beauty.
Baugh's subject matter makes sense. He should depict youth and beauty as young man who is a developing realist. . .heelllooo. . And I know for a fact that he could breath life into any subject matter he is compelled to paint. . yes even from life. Take a look as his new DVD as he draws a living Master (Richard Schmid) with cameras rolling. . .I'll be looking for your DVD BTM. . .when does that come out? Oh yeah ....never.

Posted by: joseph on July 6, 2009 2:43 PM


I can paint pretty well. I know or have met a lot of the top realist painters, and many of the people who painted with Richard Schmid at the Palette and Chisel in the 80's (Nancy Guzik, Rose Frantzen, Romel de la Torre, Clayton Beck, etc.) All of the ones who have seen my work ask me why I'm not in galleries. I say I don't like the restrictive subject matter, which to me is a copying contest to see who can copy the most saccharine things.

I don't like Casey Baugh's work. It is obvious that most of his stuff is done from photography, like Jeremy Lipking's. I know that for a fact. I'm sure he paints well from life if he learned from Richard. But his work, like a lot of the New Realists' work, is simply copywork, or better said, academic studies passed off as finished work. I've seen little or no imagination from any of these guys. In their 20's and early 30's, guys like Lipking and Baugh are already repeating their past themes. Its ridiculous to compare them with the great realists of the late 1800's and early 20th century.

I'm sure that the gallery grind they are in does not permit them to spend a great deal of time on each painting. That's what happens when galleries are allowed to take 50% and the government takes half of what's left. But as a spectator, I couldn't care less about that. All I care about is the finished work. And it screams copy copy copy.

Where's the creativity? How does Baugh's work compare to Sargent's early Venice paintings? Or maybe Zorn's early work? Schmid's early work blows Casey's out of the water.

Like I said, I'm sure Casey's a nice guy, so not liking his work is not a personal attack. I'm not envious of him or his work. I just like to see creative work, realism or not. I avoid the market because you trade freedom for money. Since I have other ways to make money, I paint what I like. I can't tell you how many realists I've met who are burned out on their potboiler material.

The syllogism of the New Realism is this: Great art is beautiful, therefore, if I paint beautiful things accurately, I will have made great art!

If you can't see what's wrong with that statement, then I guess we don't have much to say to one another. Nice to hear from you.

Posted by: BTM on July 6, 2009 3:53 PM

To preface: I am 1)Not a very good writer.2)Someone who has wild crazy eyes.
Has anyone heard of Euan Uglow? or lucian freud? Along with Antonio Lopez and andrew wyeth those guys established a real gaze to me. You really have to paint alot to know the limitations of your eyes and the limitations of a fleeting subject. The whole David Hockney theory on Ingres is spot on.(They still amaze though)I enjoy john currin, but he is doing something more with photographs. There is something missing in these "young masters". I am twenty eight and when I see artists crank out paintings and come home with accolades such as 'living master status' I chuckle and get depressed. Are these awards meant to comfort realists in an art world that sees them as mall art? Or help galleries sell more. On that subject, why does everyone who gets discovered have to have some successful mentor who knows the academy like the back of their hand? Everyone is teaching a class too. Aside from my rant, Casey is doing alot of good things. he has the marketing thing down and is in no short supply of good looking women.

Posted by: cf on July 25, 2009 10:02 PM

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