Acrylic Art: A Colorful Dive into its History and Evolution

Acrylic Art: A Colorful Dive into its History and Evolution

Acrylic paints, with their vibrant hues and versatile application, have become an essential medium for many modern artists. Their rapid drying time, combined with the ability to be used on a myriad of surfaces, make them popular among artists of all calibers. But where did acrylic art originate, and how has it evolved over the years? Let’s embark on a journey to discover the fascinating history of acrylic art.

The Beginnings of Acrylic Paint

While the use of acrylics in art feels contemporary, its origins trace back to the early 20th century. The first usable acrylic resin dispersion was developed in Germany in the 1930s. By the 1940s and 1950s, these acrylic resins were provided as a solution for artists in the form of water-based paints. This was revolutionary in many ways, especially considering the toxicity and complexities associated with oil paints.

Companies like Liquitex started producing these water-based acrylics for painters in the 1950s. Initially marketed as “new medium for professional artists,” these paints rapidly gained popularity for their unique properties.

Acrylic vs. Traditional Oils

One of the most significant advantages of acrylic paints over traditional oils is the drying time. While oil paints can take days or even weeks to dry completely, acrylics can dry within minutes. This allows artists to work faster, layer paint, or modify their pieces without extended waiting times.

Furthermore, acrylics are water-soluble, making cleanup easier and more environmentally friendly. Oils, on the other hand, require solvents like turpentine for thinning and cleaning brushes.

Birth of Acrylic: A Response to Modernity

The inception of acrylic paints in the early 20th century was not just an artistic advancement but also a reflection of a world in flux. As industrialization was shifting gears, materials like acrylic resins became symbolic of the melding of art and modern science. The boundary between traditional craftsmanship and innovative technologies began to blur, giving artists both the challenge and the tools to respond to a changing world.

Scientific Advances and Artistic Exploration

The very genesis of acrylics emanates from a beautiful intersection of art and science. This union underscores an era where advancements in chemical engineering spurred a plethora of new materials, leading to breakthroughs not only in the realm of construction, consumer goods, and transportation but also in art.

Interdisciplinary Collaborations: The emergence of acrylics led to collaborations between artists and chemists. These partnerships aimed to refine the paint’s consistency, increase its longevity, and expand the palette of available colors. Such interdisciplinary exchanges were a testament to the breaking down of traditional silos, leading to holistic advancements.

Evolution in Techniques and Styles

Over the decades, as artists became more accustomed to this medium, myriad techniques emerged. Acrylics could mimic the appearance of oils and watercolors, but they also paved the way for entirely new techniques.

Layering: Thanks to their fast drying time, artists could layer paint, creating depth and texture in a fraction of the time it would take with oils.

Wash and Glazing: By diluting the paint with water or medium, artists could achieve watercolor-like washes or rich glazes, bringing about transparency and luminosity to their work.

Impasto: This involves layering paint thickly, creating a 3D texture on the canvas. While possible with oils, the quick drying time of acrylics allows for faster buildup.

Techniques: Beyond Surface Value

Texture and Mixed Media: Acrylics’ adaptable nature meant that they could be easily mixed with other media. Artists often combine acrylics with materials like sand, rice, or even fabrics to create multidimensional pieces. This opened up avenues for integrating tactile experiences into visual art.

Sgraffito: Borrowed from ancient mural techniques, sgraffito involves scratching the top layer of paint to reveal the layers beneath. While this was practiced with other mediums, acrylics’ quick drying property made it much more feasible, allowing artists to work with pace and spontaneity.

Pouring and Dripping: Instead of using brushes, artists began pouring or dripping paint onto canvases, showcasing the fluid dynamics of acrylics. This method became emblematic of the freedom and unpredictability that modern art started to champion.

Impact on Contemporary Art

Many renowned artists of the 20th century, including Andy Warhol, David Hockney, and Roy Lichtenstein, embraced acrylics. Pop Art, in particular, benefitted from the bold, unmodulated colors that acrylics could produce, perfectly aligning with the movement’s aesthetics.

From Pop Art to Protest Art

While we previously touched upon Pop Art’s romance with acrylics, it’s equally crucial to consider the medium’s role in socio-political movements. The 1960s and 70s were rife with civil rights movements, anti-war protests, and feminist awakenings. Acrylics, with their accessibility and boldness, became a favored medium for protest art.

Murals and Street Art: Acrylics made their way from studio easels to the vast canvases of building walls and streets. Murals became symbols of resistance, community, and identity. In regions like Latin America, muralism played a crucial role in national narratives, with acrylics being integral to many such artworks.

DIY and Art Activism: The DIY (Do It Yourself) culture, bolstered by the availability of affordable acrylics, saw art activism surge. Portable painted banners, posters, and even clothing became instruments of protest, leveraging the quick-drying and vivid nature of acrylics.

Acrylics in Global Narratives

The universality of acrylic paints meant that they found resonance not just in Western art hubs but also among global artists. From the bustling streets of Tokyo to the vibrant cultures of Africa, acrylics became a medium of choice for many, each bringing their cultural interpretations to it.

Cultural Fusion and Acrylics

East Meets West: As the world became more interconnected, acrylics traveled across oceans and continents, leading to captivating fusions. Traditional Asian painting techniques, for instance, began to integrate acrylics, producing artworks that juxtaposed age-old methods with contemporary mediums.

Indigenous Artforms: Aboriginal artists in Australia, using acrylics, breathed new life into their traditional dot paintings. These works, while rooted in millennia-old stories, found a renewed vigor and audience, thanks to the adaptability of acrylic paints.

Socio-Environmental Reflections

The switch from oils to acrylics wasn’t just a choice of convenience for many artists; it was a statement. The post-war era, which saw the rise of acrylics, was also a time when societies globally were becoming aware of environmental and health hazards. By choosing a medium that reduced ecological footprints, artists were subtly aligning with emerging global concerns.

Furthermore, the democratic nature of acrylics — available to all, less elitist than the revered oils, and adaptable to various climates — democratized art. Artists from regions where access to traditional art supplies was limited could now engage in global art discourses, further decentralizing the once Euro-centric world of modern art.

Environmental and Health Benefits

In an increasingly eco-conscious world, acrylics have proven to be more environmentally friendly than their oil counterparts. The absence of toxic solvents, easy cleanup with water, and the ability to create without the fumes associated with oils have made acrylics a more sustainable choice for many artists.

Environmental Consciousness and Sustainable Art

While acrylics did offer a reprieve from the toxic fumes of oils and solvents, they weren’t without environmental challenges. The plastic-based nature of the paint raised concerns in an eco-conscious world. However, this very challenge spurred innovation:

Eco-Acrylics: Research and development led to the birth of more sustainable acrylic variants, focusing on reducing microplastic releases and emphasizing recyclable packaging.

Recycled Art: Many artists began incorporating recycled materials into their acrylic artworks, merging the medium’s flexibility with an ethos of sustainability.

Final Thoughts

From the studios of the avant-garde to the streets echoing societal aspirations, the journey of acrylic art offers a tapestry of stories. At its core, acrylic art isn’t just about the evolution of a medium; it’s a testament to how art, science, and society interweave, shaping narratives and reflecting the human spirit’s indomitable quest for expression. As we navigate the 21st century, acrylics, with their rich legacy and adaptability, promise to remain at the forefront of artistic innovation.

Unveiling the Masterpieces: A Journey through Diverse Oil Painting Styles

Unveiling the Masterpieces: A Journey through Diverse Oil Painting Styles

Oil painting, an ancient art form dating back centuries, continues to captivate art enthusiasts with its rich colors, depth, and expressiveness. The versatility of oil paints has enabled artists to explore a wide range of styles, each representing their unique vision and creativity. In this blog post, we delve into the distinctive styles of five renowned artists: Alexander Volkov, Steve Barton, Mario Jung, Michael Flohr, and Todd White.

1. Alexander Volkov: The Enchanting Realism

Alexander Volkov’s works are a testament to his mastery of realism. His paintings transport viewers to dreamlike landscapes and ethereal worlds. His use of oil paints brings a surreal depth to his subjects, often showcasing the countryside, or landscapes across the world. Volkov’s meticulous attention to detail, combined with a vibrant color palette, creates an enchanting visual experience that leaves a lasting impression on the observer. His pieces have an otherworldly quality, inviting viewers to lose themselves in a realm of wonder.

2. Steve Barton: The Impressionistic Symphony

Steve Barton’s oil paintings are a true symphony of colors and brushstrokes. A prominent figure in the contemporary art scene, Barton’s works are characterized by their impressionistic style. He skillfully employs bold, visible brushstrokes, capturing the essence of his subjects rather than focusing on minute details. Barton’s mastery lies in his ability to evoke emotions through his vivid use of color and light, allowing viewers to immerse themselves in the moment depicted in the painting. His art is a testament to the power of impressionism in conveying emotion and atmosphere. You will find yourself on a journey to a new vacation every time you look at a Steve Barton painting.

3. Mario Jung: The Abstract Expressionist Vision

Mario Jung is a trailblazer in the world of abstract expressionism. His oil paintings are a reflection of raw emotion, conveyed through bold and dynamic brushwork. Jung’s art often features abstracted forms and energetic splashes of color, inviting viewers to interpret the meaning behind each piece on their own terms. His works transcend traditional representations, leaving space for personal reflection and interpretation. Jung’s oil paintings are a celebration of freedom. The large trees and depth in the landscapes allow the viewer to take a journey to a distant memory in the countryside every time they view a Mario Jung painting.

4. Michael Flohr: The Urban Expressionist

Michael Flohr’s oil paintings present a captivating fusion of realism and impressionism, capturing the essence of city life in a unique way. Flohr’s urban scenes depict bustling streets, quaint cafes, and vibrant nightlife with remarkable attention to detail. His use of oil paints allows him to play with light and shadow, creating a palpable atmosphere in his cityscapes. Flohr’s art portrays the allure of the urban landscape, inviting viewers to experience the energy and allure of city living.

5. Todd White: The Figurative Charm

Todd White’s oil paintings are an ode to the human form and its complexities. A master of figurative art, White’s work captures moments of everyday life, often portraying characters in social settings. His subjects exude a sense of charm and vulnerability, drawing viewers into the narrative of each painting. Through his use of oil paints, White is able to infuse his characters with emotion and depth, making them come alive on the canvas. His art is a reminder of the beauty found in human connections and shared experiences.

In conclusion, oil painting continues to be a vibrant and diverse art form, with artists like Alexander Volkov, Steve Barton, Mario Jung, Michael Flohr, and Todd White showcasing their unique styles and interpretations. From the enchanting realism of Volkov to the figurative charm of White, each artist leaves an indelible mark on the art world, inspiring us to appreciate the boundless possibilities of oil painting. Whether it’s the dreamlike realms, the symphony of colors, the abstract expressions, the urban allure, or the human connections depicted on the canvas, oil paintings have the power to evoke emotions, provoke thoughts, and transport us to new dimensions of artistic appreciation.

Contemporary Approaches to Still-Life Painting

Still-life painting has historically been one of the most prominent genres in Western painting. It originated in the Middle Ages, inspired by ancient Greco-Roman art. Dutch and Flemish painters, in particular, took to it in the 16th and 17th centuries, leading to it being recognized as a distinct art genre. As a matter of fact, the English word “still life” derives from the Dutch word “stilleven.”

Early still-life art often contained religious and mythological symbolism. Over time, artists steadily began to incorporate more relatable elements into their paintings. Contemporary still-life artists, inspired by 20th century pop culture, the “found art” mentality, and New Realism began to push the traditionally narrow boundaries of this genre to include elements like technology, media, and photography.

Modern still-life paintings are often defined by the representation of objects with a double characteristic. They’re inanimate and an indistinguishable part of daily life. However, on canvas, they’re given a new lease of life. Artists are inspired by the paradox of reimagining routine, everyday objects as something extraordinary, while dusting off an old genre through ultra-modern muses.

Contemporary Masters of Still-Life Painting

Read on to learn about the approach modern still-life painters use, including some whose work is showcased at Marcus Ashley Gallery.

Alexander Volkov

Summer Rain original still life painting in oil by Alexander Volkov
“Summer Rain” by Alexander Volkov, original oil on canvas

Alexander Volkov is the present-day master of realism. He paints stunning still lifes and landscapes that often center around themes of rural America, which he calls home. He often seeks to transport the viewer to an imaginary yet familiar environment where time moves slowly without the pressing distractions of modern life.

Born in St. Petersburg, he emigrated to the U.S. in 1989 has since built an impressive portfolio of contemporary still-life paintings. His favorite device is the interplay of light and shadow to lend mood and narrative to each piece. His works often serve as a focal point of light in any space, regardless of the intensity of illumination around. The artwork also tends to mimic the sun’s transition and the changes in natural lighting through the day.

Volkov considers himself “self-taught” only inasmuch as anyone who has constantly studied art and artists all his life can be self-taught. He draws inspiration from past masters like Vermeer, Rembrandt, and William Turner, but also from Einstein, Beethoven, and Tarkovsky, as well as the people he knew and grew up with, both artists and otherwise.

Eric Christensen

Eric Christensen is a watercolor hyperrealism artist. The phrase “watercolor hyperrealism” is a bit of an oxymoron, since they’re rarely seen together in the world of fine art. In fact, Christensen is today the only known artist capable of producing hyperrealistic art through standard transparent watercolors. He uses a patented technique to achieve this, which lends his paintings the look and feel of a high-definition photograph.

Over the years, he has built an impressive reputation for showcasing the California wine country. Based in Napa Valley, he creates modern landscapes and contemporary still-life paintings that feel grand and intimate at the same time. They often incorporate a variety of elements including wine, food, flowers, and fruit, all rendered in vibrant, saturated colors.

Christensen spends a lot of time photographing his subjects before he gets down to painting them. Each piece takes months to finish and he only releases four to five originals each year.

Shades of Summer by Eric Christensen

“Shades of Summer” by Eric Christensen, original watercolor on paper

Michael Flohr

Martini for Two by Michael Flohr
“Martini for Two” by Michael Flohr, limited edition giclee

Michael Flohr’s contemporary still-life paintings are like nothing you’ve ever seen in the genre. His style is perhaps best described as a kaleidoscope of impressionism and abstract expressionism. His art captures scenes of busy city life, including rainswept city streets, bars, and cafes, often with a very retro feel. He doesn’t necessarily paint to invite deep technical appraisal. Rather, he likes creating paintings that simply bring beauty and please the eye.

Inspired by Cezanne, Flohr too uses pigment straight from the tube to create vivid backdrops with bold brushstrokes and almost a mosaic effect.

Maya Eventov

Floral Hydrangea by Maya Eventov

Floral Hydrangea – 189427 by Maya Eventov, original acrylic on canvas

Maya Eventov’s work is often a smorgasbord of bold and gossamer pastel hues that seem to thrum with life. Her contemporary still-life paintings use rich textures, expressive paint strokes, and exquisite light work to create an imaginative world that never fails to draw you in.

Eventov was born in St. Petersburg, where she spent countless hours at local museums studying the work of post-impressionist masters. She developed her trademark technique of etching in oil from Fabergé egg designs she encountered during this time. In 1990, she immigrated to Canada, where she lives with her family. Her present-day work often draws inspiration from Mediterranean themes with bright colored floral arrangements.

Browse More Contemporary Still-Life Paintings at Marcus Ashley Gallery

Still-life aficionado? Browse through our extensive collection of still-life paintings for sale at Marcus Ashley Gallery. We host works from national and international artists, many of them modern-day greats of still-life painting. 

Explore our gallery’s art services, including custom framing and financing options to enrich your buying experience. Reach out to our art consultants for expert advice on contemporary still-life paintings.

Exploring the Style of Watercolor Realism: The Fine Art of Eric Christensen

Gold Rush by Eric Christensen

The terms “watercolor” and “realism” are rarely seen together in the world of fine art. Yet, achieving hyperrealism with watercolors is an astounding feat that artist Eric Christensen achieves time and time again.

His artwork evokes the verdant beauty of vineyards, gardens, and bountiful tables. Often, realism falls into the trap of looking like a high-quality picture rather than a work of art, but Eric Christensen’s fine art has total command of the composition to make his paintings eye-catching, beautiful, and as blissfully intoxicating as the wines they portray.

Dive into the world of Christensen’s contemporary watercolor art, available to purchase for your collection at Marcus Ashley Gallery.

What Makes This Contemporary Watercolor Artist Unique

Few people can achieve the attributes of realism using watercolors, and even fewer have mastered watercolor art with such impeccable detail as Eric Christensen.

Artists do not typically attempt realism with watercolors; the medium inherently bleeds and behaves somewhat unpredictably for most artists, and fine details can get lost when colors spread and blend. Oils and acrylics are usually preferred for realism, but Christensen achieves masterful hyperrealism nonetheless.

Christensen uses a special layering technique to ensure dryness and precision in every aspect of his watercolor realism approach. When you look closely at an original or print, you can see the meticulous brushstrokes he employs. He uses photographs for reference in his initial sketch, often manipulating several reference images at once and using them primarily for conceptualization. In his paintings, you can often glimpse familiar, recognizable landscapes in Napa Valley.

A Closer Look at Examples of Christensen’s Watercolor Realism

Still life of North American plants and vases entitled Casaba and Protea by Eric Christensen.

Casaba & Protea 

This painting, set in a rustic kitchen, evokes a warm mood and the lush bounty of an autumn harvest. Featuring yellow winter melon and sugarbushes, Christensen draws from his backyard garden and the natural beauty that inspires him daily. The sunny hues and composition inspire a homey coziness that will brighten any room.

Casaba and Protea is one of the rare original pieces of Eric Christensen’s fine art available at Marcus Ashley Gallery. It’s truly one for the collectors, and we invite you to come view it personally in our South Lake Tahoe gallery.

Triptych of watercolor paintings featuring wine, fruits, and vineyards entitled Estate of Bliss by Eric Christensen.

Estate of Bliss

This triptych displays exquisite attention to composition, color, and form. It manages to capture the essence of Napa Valley in all its flavors, beauty, and sensory delights.

A remarkable aspect of this watercolor realism painting is that all three panels were painted at the same time from start to finish. Christensen’s hallmark patience, attention to detail, and phenomenal skill are especially evident in this prime example of contemporary watercolor art.

A painting of a fireplace, cheeseboard, and wine entitled Golden Glow by Eric Christensen.

Golden Glow  

A cozy fire, a bountiful cheese board, and fine wine — some of life’s finest pleasures. This sumptuous Christensen painting draws you into an intimate, classy life, where problems melt away.

This inviting painting is sought after by the owners of fine estates, urban restaurants, vineyards, and personal collectors. With such a warm scene and enticing palette, who could resist its appeal?

Purchase Eric Christensen Fine Art For Your Collection

Marcus Ashley Gallery is proud to play host to some of the finest contemporary watercolor artists of our time, including Eric Christensen. Our skilled art consultants have many years of experience advising art collectors and connoisseurs about framing, shipping, and which painting would look the best in their gallery. If you’re interested in services like international shipping or even a private home show, peruse our range of world-class gallery services.

Eric Christensen takes commissions, and they don’t have to be of Napa Valley landscapes or wine! He can breathe life and vibrance into any still life or treasure that you desire. If you would like to get in touch with him and see if he can bring your artistic vision to fruition, contact one of our knowledgeable art consultants.

Art Styles 101: Contemporary Landscape Painting

From the ethereal impressionism of Claude Monet’s water lilies to the “happy little forest” scenes of Bob Ross, landscape painting has taken many forms over the course of history. Today, contemporary landscape painting continues to astonish and inspire, and we’d like to share with you more about this versatile art style.

At Marcus Ashley Gallery, we represent a wide variety of contemporary landscape artists and have curated gorgeous landscape oil paintings for sale for your collection. If you’re interested in this art style, we encourage you to peruse our online gallery or visit us in person in South Lake Tahoe.

The Evolution of Landscape Painting in Recent Centuries

A historical context is always important to understand what differentiates contemporary landscape paintings from the art of the past. From the (Western) genre’s origins in the 1500s, landscape painting has seen several fascinating cultural evolutions. 

Painting was not always accessible for all social classes; the tools, materials, and training required to master the art was usually possible only with a wealthy patron. It was the wealthy, then, that commissioned skilled artists to paint landscapes, and it was typically their whims and desires that guided the artist’s hands.

Commissioning landscape paintings became enormously popular amongst the upper classes in Western culture in the 18th century. The famous Victorian art critic John Ruskin once declared landscape painting as the “chief artistic creation of the nineteenth century,” associating the appreciation of nature with spirituality. He said people are “apt to assume that the appreciation of natural beauty and the painting of landscape is a normal and enduring part of our spiritual activity.”

This mindset gave way to 19th and 20th century Romanticism, which sought to escape the harsh industrialization of the world and envision a purer, fantastical world that fulfilled the longings of the spirit. Landscapes of that era often embodied this concept, adding a mystical and fanciful touch to the realism of prior decades. 

Today, environmental issues such as climate change make the genre even more essential and profound. Contemporary landscape paintings express the beauty of the threatened earth humanity is challenged to preserve, while showing the same evocative appreciation for nature as their predecessors did hundreds of years ago.

Let’s explore some of our own artists represented at Marcus Ashley Gallery who explore the natural world through their work.

Landscape painting of a church nestled in green hills entitled Bells of the Abbey, by Charles Pabst.

Charles Pabst

Charles Pabst’s passion for the American Southwest is made clear in his breathtaking panoramas. As one of the country’s best-known contemporary landscape artists, he has received many awards and well-deserved international renown.

His use of warm lighting and soft impressionist brushstrokes evokes the peace and majesty of the outdoors. He often focuses on the unique landforms in the West, and excels in creating the sense of awe and wonder of ancient canyons and dramatic cliffs.

Pabst is fascinated by the history of the “wild west,” and some of his scenes depict western migration of American settlers and the scenery they encountered along their adventure. Pabst’s contemporary landscape paintings are excellent depictions of western Americana.

Landscape painting of a sunset over an ocean entitled New Day, by Alexander Volkov.

Alexander Volkov

Alexander Volkov’s contemporary landscape paintings feature a dazzling, mysterious interplay of light. His mastery of color allows him to create scenes that seem realistic at first glance, but slowly draw you in to a fantastical environment. Volkov once stated, “There is no greater mystery to me than the conflict of light and darkness. In the way they clash and penetrate each other, there is the source of everything.” 

Volkov’s landscapes remove the distractions and stresses of modern life. They present a natural America, free of cities and distraction. Whether he paints a soft sunset over the ocean or a still winter forest, he gives you the sense of peace and solitude that only nature can provide. In his paintings, nature triumphs over man, and every piece has a timeless quality.

Landscape painting of mountains and wildflowers entitled Blooming In Nature, by Mario Jung

Mario Jung

Mario Jung is a contemporary landscape artist from Korea with a powerful story. He miraculously recovered from an accident that left him blind, deaf, and paralyzed, and has poured his inspiration and passion for life into his contemporary landscape paintings ever since.

Jung does not commit to the free-flowing randomness of nature. His paintings often mix elements of realism with clean, geometric shapes and layers of texture that create a captivating scene that draws you in and forces you to reconsider your reality.

Landscape painting of a Venice canal entitled Beautiful Venice, by Michael Flohr

Michael Flohr believes that contemporary landscape paintings don’t have to have meaning — their beauty can simply be enjoyed. Flohr excels in capturing the beauty of cityscapes and rainswept streets, and is a master of avant garde and abstract expressionist techniques. 

Flohr is a contemporary landscape artist whose work is highly inspired by the bright colors and techniques of Cezanne. He paints with pure pigments and creates a dazzling mosaic effect, adding a modern twist to classic environments.

Artfully cracked landscape painting of mountains and wildflowers entitled Our Candy Land Corner by Rolinda Stotts.

Rolinda Stotts

Rolinda Stotts is inspired primarily by her rural upbringing and the simplified view of the world as viewed through the eyes of her children. Her oil paintings undergo a phenomenal transformation when she literally breaks them in her own two hands, cracking the thin layers and creating organic texture.

Stotts’ contemporary landscape paintings break the mold and stun viewers with their straightforward beauty. The tactile nature of her works draws viewers in and adds incredible visual interest, making her a unique contemporary landscape artist.

Browse Landscape Art and More at Marcus Ashley Gallery

Marcus Ashley Gallery’s passionate curators and art consultants are proud to represent the artists discussed above. If you’re interested in purchasing contemporary landscape paintings for your personal collection, we have many landscape oil paintings for sale, including but not limited to the artists discussed here.

Visit us at our spacious South Lake Tahoe gallery or on our website. Check out our upcoming events with artists to meet many of these painters in person, as well!

Understanding Art Gallery Style Framing vs. Gallery Wrapped Canvas

You have several options for how to display fine art in your home, but by far the two most common ways are gallery style framing and wrapped canvas. If you’re new to fine art and want to learn how to make your collection look appealing no matter which style of frame you choose, then we can help. 

The team at Marcus Ashley Gallery is happy to define gallery wrap vs. framing to help you decide the optimal method to display your artwork.

What is Wrapped Canvas?

Canvas is a specific type of fabric material designed to be durable but stretchable. An artist or a manufacturer stretches the canvas taut over a wooden frame and treats it with specific mediums so that it can hold and preserve paint. 

There are two kinds of wrapped canvas that work for either original canvas artworks or art prints on canvas: gallery wrapped vs. non-gallery wrapped. Non-gallery wrapped canvases are typically what you might find in an art supply store or in plein-air paintings that need to be more light-weight for portability, where you will find thinner stretcher bars and where the canvas staples are clearly in view. Artists and clients both usually desire art on non-gallery canvas to be framed.

Gallery wrapped canvas is a method of displaying paintings wherein the edge of the canvas is stretched over the frame and completely covers the stretcher bars beneath: you will not see the staples, the stretcher bars are usually thicker, and the overall presentation is sleek. The painting continues around the entire edge, adding dimension to the piece and creating a “pop-out” effect on your wall. 

Some frames beneath canvases are thick, so they can be challenging to frame yourself without a professional service — in this case, choosing a gallery-wrapped style is both an easier and often a more affordable option. At Marcus Ashley Gallery, we offer gallery-wrapped canvas options for many of our limited edition giclee and artists’ limited edition prints.

Many people love the effect of this framing style, feeling that it lends a contemporary and artistic appeal to the room. It all depends on your style preferences and the genre of painting, as well.

Examples of gallery-wrapped canvas on display at Marcus Ashley Gallery. Artist - Mario Jung

What is Gallery Style Framing?

Close up of a custom art frame with a blue patina finish over gold

Gallery framing is simply when a professional encloses artwork in a custom frame. A frame can also come with glass or plexiglass, which then protects delicate artwork and encourages its longevity.

Choosing a gallery frame for art both elevates and enhances art, making it look more complete and professional. Additionally, when you choose a custom frame, you can complement the art by choosing special finishes and patinas to make the art truly stand out. The expense is well worth it for most collectors concerned about the long-term value of their collection. Additionally, having features like UV protection and protection from dust and the elements helps keep your artwork vibrant.

While custom framing definitely makes art work look and feel more elegant, gallery wrapped canvas does offer similar benefits visually. Some types of art, such as artists’ prints on paper, watercolors, and lithography, benefit more from a frame.

If you desire gallery style framing for your deep canvas, a floater frame is an excellent option. Note that if you choose this option, you might be covering a small amount of the edge of the canvas. A professional gallery framer will be able to advise you on the best options for your specific artwork.

Choosing Gallery Wrap vs. Framing

There is one important thing to note: like your personal art preference, there is no “best” way to display a painting. Both gallery style framing and gallery wrapped canvas can look attractive and professional. It comes down to personal preference and your interior style.

Another important question you can consider when making your choice between gallery wrap vs. framing is: How did the artist intend for their art to be displayed? More often than not, an artist has this in mind before they even begin the piece — especially if they intentionally paint the edges of the canvas sides.

Choose Marcus Ashley Gallery for Your Custom Framing Needs

Marcus Ashley Gallery creates museum-quality framing for our customers right here from our own frame shop. While you’re here, browse our online gallery to find inspirational artwork from some of the world’s finest artists. If you have any questions about gallery wrap vs. framing, contact the experienced professionals at Marcus Ashley Gallery. Our passionate art curators and consultants have the skill to advise you on the best choices for your space, and they’re more than happy to help find the perfect piece for you!

Art Styles 101: Magical Realism Painting

Image of Robert Gonsalves’ limited edition print of Space Between the Words
Robert Gonsalves, As Above and So Below, Limited Edition Print at Marcus Ashley Gallery

Frida Kahlo’s self-portrait of her spine replaced with a broken column, Emily Bronte’s ghosts in an otherwise typical-English Wuthering Heights, Franz Kafka’s transformation of a man into vermin in Metamorphosis. All of these are magical realism, in which an uncanny hint of the supernatural is added to our familiar world to challenge the way we perceive reality.

In this article, we’ll explore the core concepts that define magical realism paintings and literature. We’ll explore the breathtaking artwork of Michael Parkes and Rob Gonsalves, whose artwork we are so fortunate to feature in our South Lake Tahoe gallery. We invite you to explore this incredible art genre with us and come away inspired.

What Does Magical Realism Mean?

Many art lovers conflate magical realism with the works of the 20th century Surrealists or 19th century pictorial Symbolists, general surrealism, fabulism, or pure fantasy. It’s important to note that while those artistic movements and methods may inform magical realist painters’ work, magical realism does not fit perfectly into these boxes. Magical realism paintings or literature do not address the inexpressible, immaterial psyche in the way surrealism does. They are not illustrations of history, legend, or myth like fabulism or symbolism. They are not purely fantastical or unreal like fantasy.

In short, magical realism must contain magical elements that transform a realistic setting.

Think of magical realism painting as the difference between low fantasy in literature. High fantasy is The Lord of the Rings — it does not take place on Earth. It has entirely new races, languages, histories, and magic. Nothing is familiar, and everything is a new invention.

Low fantasy is Harry Potter — it’s set in the real world, but there are magical elements that elevate, distort, and transform what we’re familiar with. Magical realism is low fantasy: it takes motifs and settings we recognize in reality and adds surreal, fantastical motifs. Some scholars use the term magical realism to mean low fantasy.

The Origins of Magical Realism Painting

How did magical realism painting first come to be? Most art movements have tenuous, debatable origins, but magical realism has definite sparks that ignited the movement.

Magical Realism has its roots in Germany and Italy in the early 1900s. The German term
“magischer realismus” was first coined 1925 by art critic Franz Roh in his book Nach Expressionismus: Magischer Realismus (After Expressionism: Magical Realism).

Franz Roh emphasizes in his book that magical realism paintings must contain these elements:

  • Realism’s accurate detail and photographic clarity
  • The magical nature of the real, normal world: how normal objects can sometimes take on fantastic appearances

As you can see, the second does not quite align with our previous definition. Like many art movements, it is subject to interpretation, and magical realism today has transformed beyond Roh’s original definition.

Roh’s book was soon translated into Spanish, which resulted in the magical realism movement catapulting in South America. This concept inspired authors and artists, including the famous author Gabriel García Márquez, author of Love in the Time of Cholera (1985). This genre is still growing in popularity, both in art and literature.

Michael Parkes: Master Magical Realism Artist

The magical realism paintings of Michael Parkes both exemplify the genre and take it to a whole new level. Parkes’ artworks feature several recurring motifs inspired by his philosophical and mythological studies, including mermaids, angels, fairies, and mythical beasts like centaurs.

Parkes has also mastered the technical aspects of realism, and his still life paintings perfectly depict the world as we see it. This is an instrumental part of the genre: incorporating both real and fantasy elements with meticulous technical skill, and Michael Parkes accomplishes this perfectly.

Michael Parkes magical realism painting of a ballerina floating in the sky
Michael Parkes, Tuesday’s Child, Limited Edition Canvas at Marcus Ashley Gallery

Michael Parkes does not just produce magical realism paintings — he has also mastered the mediums of stone lithography, vellum sketches, and bronze casting. His artwork comes to life in three dimensions while retaining fantastical themes and evocative human and animal figures.

The magical realism painting As Above and So Below by artist Rob Gonsalves, showing a city made of cave stalagmites
Robert Gonsalves, As Above and So Below, Limited Edition Print at Marcus Ashley Gallery

Rob Gonsalves

Another renowned magical realism artist, Rob Gonsalves’ paintings were influenced by the paradoxical creations of René Magritte and M.C. Escher. While much of Gonsalves’ art has been deemed surrealism, he is classed as a magical realism painter for his consistent involvement of real, tangible human activities. 

Gonsalves included many tricks of the eye (trompe-l’oeil) in his artwork, much like M.C. Escher. His works encourage you to peer closer to see what’s real and what’s an illusion, bending your perception of reality. Gonsalves wanted to display the human desire to “believe the impossible” through his artwork. 

Gonsalves sadly passed away in 2017, and we are honored to keep his creative spirit alive by featuring some of his most magnificent works at Marcus Ashley Gallery.

Witness Magical Realism Paintings at Marcus Ashley Gallery

Our online gallery is an incredible way to get lost in magical realism paintings from the comfort of your home, but the experience of seeing these paintings in person is incomparable.

We invite you to come to our gallery in beautiful South Lake Tahoe to witness work from renowned magical realism artists. With our gallery services, you can also consider adding originals or limited editions to your personal collection.

From our family to yours, welcome to Marcus Ashley Gallery!