Manifesto of American Verismo
By Jerry Ross, 2012
"American verismo", a movement that I have recently founded, is a catch-all phrase for an artistic style that draws its main inspiration from Italian art, both classical and modern.
There is an implied nostalgia for work done “dal vero” (after life) whether classical (Raphael, Rubens, or Caravaggio, etc.) or 19th century (the Tuscan I Macchiaioli school) or more contemporary.
Verismo is somewhat akin to contemporary “atelier realism” but the latter has been criticized for an academic uniformity and its over attention to details.
American verismo is more poetic and linked to post-impressionism, the Milan-based Scapigliatura (‘wild hair’) movement, and the I Machiaioli’s commitment to social issues.
But like atelier realism, American verismo is associated with a painterly sketching style, use of broad brushstrokes, and the alla prima, “direct attack” technique of painting.
It is also linked to all'aperto (open air) impressionist-style landscape painting. In short, to pleinairism which has become widely popular in recent years.
I first introduced the term during several classes he taught at the Maude Kerns Art Center in Eugene and then later at the "Angels Fight Road Art Center" plein air retreat up the McKenzie River (Oregon) during the summers of 2010 and 2011.
A “social verismo” aspect of the style is political and makes comments on society and often depicts scenes with political or moral narratives.
In “verismo” there is also the belief in the importance of making sketch studies from old master paintings and sculptures. As a result many of my paintings are "comments" on old master works. I am fond of Rubens, Rembrandt, Caravaggio, and Raphael for this purpose,
In addition, the principle of abstraction is important in this approach to painting, and, in fact, abstraction is evident in verismo work. Some of my work gets minimalist and the abstraction levels are high without apology....