Lost Ives Gammell Letter Found by Fred Ross

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Lost Ives Gammell Letter Found

by Fred Ross

Ives Gammell will go down among the most important figures in 20th century art history, though you would never know it reading text books or listening to lectures about the period today. Gammell played a crucial role ensuring that the methods and knowledge of how to train artists in the techniques of the old masters, which had developed for hundreds of years and reached it's highest point of development in the second half of the 19th Century, was then passed down to future generations of artists. Most of them are still alive today, and have already trained hundreds of others who themselves have also trained others until now once again there are a few thousand fine artists who know these methods and have advanced skills with over 50 ARC ApprovedĀ® schools and academies becoming more and more entrenched once again in to the fabric of society.

Gammell himself was a student of William Paxton , who was trained by the 19th century master Jean Leon Gerome . During the decades after the Great Depression and World War II, there were few if any teaching artists who had been properly trained out of this tradition leading back through history to the High Renaissance. The only other thread I know of was through Pietro Annigoni . If anyone knows of other such threads we would love to hear from them.

So it was, with these people that we first started to hatch our ideas for the rebirth of Realism in the fine arts, ideas which eventually lead to the birth and success of the Art Renewal Center, the ARC ApprovedĀ® atelier and academy program, the yearly ARC Scholarship program, and theARC Salon competitions. The first name we came up with was to be "The New American Academy of Art", and it was early in 1981 when I scheduled a trip up to Boston with Allan, where he was to introduce me to Ives Gammell and discuss with him our plans hoping to solicit the weight of his reputation and support for our efforts.

When I walked into his studio, there were a couple of assistants working, and all around were student works in various stages of completion. I half expected him to be bigger than life after all of the stories, but when he walked in and said hello, he was short of stature, and seemed quite friendly and forthcoming. We spoke for over two hours, and it was evident to me then that he had a clear mind and a sharp intellect, and was in very good humor that day. Afterwards Allan told me that he'd never seen him treat anyone so respectfully before. He clearly appreciated that we were about to take on a very difficult, perhaps impossible task, to buck the art establishment which during his life had achieved a near complete hegemony over university art departments, the missions of most museums, and the preponderance of journalistic art criticism.

Allan and I left that meeting all fired up and determined to prevail whatever the odds against us.

We looked forward to having many years of Mr. Gammell's help and counsel.

So it was much more of a shock and surprise when about one week later I received a call that Ives Gammell had passed away quite suddenly, from a heart attack.

I was very upset, and still in a fugue of sadness and feeling somewhat depressed, when two days later to my complete astonishment I received a letter from Ives Gammell that may have been the last thing he ever wrote. In it, he clearly demonstrated his friendship and support for the plans we had discussed for the future of fine art.

For years I thought I had lost this letter, but in fact I had protected it almost too much as it was laying at the bottom of my safe deposit box at the bank and I found it there while searching for other documents.

In it, the most important thing he says is this:

It was a great pleasure to receive you and Alan as well as to discuss the vitally important question of current art teaching. I trust that our consultations will lead to a solution of the predicament confronting the talented young people in search of genuine training on their chosen profession.

We believe he would be proud to see how far we have come and that he would approve of all that ARC has achieved. Back in 1981 when this was sent, there were only 7 tiny ateliers with 8 to 10 students in each of them or maybe 70 students in all. By 2001 when ARC posted its first list of ARC Approved schools, it had taken 21 years to expand to 14 little ateliers with perhaps a total of 150 students. Due to the tens of thousands of images in the ARC Museum, attracting millions of yearly visitors, helping to get the word out, we now have more than 50 ARC Approved Art Ateliers, Art Schools,Programs, and Workshops, and we now estimate between 3,000 and 4,000 talented young people are finally being properly trained. That means in 7 years we increased by a factor of more than 20 times or 2,000% what had taken three times longer to grow by only 100%. Stated another way, before ARC the renewal of art instruction was growing at less than 4% each year. Since the establishment of the ARC Approval program the number of students in these kinds of programs has grown by 50% per year, doubling in size every 18 months as opposed to doubling in size in 21 years in the period just before ARC. We have clearly found a solid if incomplete, solution for the problems referred to in Gammell's letter.

And so I still have this important historical document, and I've posted it here for all to share and enjoy.

Fred Ross, Chairman Art Renewal Center

The letter:


March 19, 1981
Dear Mr. Ross,

I am very much indebted to you for the Harding volume, "Artistes et Pompiers", which I have just received which contains very valuable information and extremely revealing illustrations of paintings by painters who benefitted by a "so called" academic training and painted pictures varying in merit and artistic distinction. I do not agree with the author's critical estimates or those of the critics whom he cites. In fact my first glance suggests that both are usually very much mistaken according to my judgements. An therein lies the basis of the current dilemma.

It was a great pleasure to receive you and Alan as well as to discuss the vitally important question of current art teaching. I trust that our consultations will lead to a solution of the predicament confronting the talented young people in search of genuine training in their chosen profession.

Sincerely Yours,
R. H. Ives Gammell

Please click on the images below for a larger view of the original letter.

Founder and Chairman of the Art Renewal Center, Ross is the leading authority on William Bouguereau and co author of the recently published Catalogue Raisonné William Bouguereau: His Life and Works.

American muralist, portrait painter, art teacher, and writer on art, was born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1893. In 1911, he enrolled in the School of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. It was there that he made contact with painters who had been trained in Europe, particularly with William Paxton, who had himself been a student of Jean-Léon Gérôme's at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris.