Building a Bridge to China with Oil Painting and Contemporary Realism

Whenever I step inside the beautiful and historic National Arts Club, on Gramercy Park in Manhattan, I’m reminded of how long it has been a supportive home for American Realism. In May, the Club held a gorgeous showcase bringing that support to the present with a show of contemporary American Realist painting.

The exhibition was organized by the American Chinese Oil Painting Artists League, known by it’s acronym, ACOPAL. The show pulled together a lot of inspiring contemporary American artists, including Nelson Shanks, Steven Assael, Daniel Greene, Jacob Collins, Charles Pfahl, Anthony Ryder, Burton Silverman and Ron Sherr, amongst many other well known painters.

The show, which started here in the states, is actually a traveling show that is going abroad to five major Chinese museums, including the Beijing World Art Museum, a premier institution in that country. Curators from the museum traveled to New York to review the work of American painters, and when I was able to speak with them they said they were pleased at the strength and range represented in the field of contemporary figurative and realist painting.

The Chinese have a tradition of academic and figurative painting that is over 100 years old, and the Chinese public is enthusiastic about realism. Fine oil painting art is considered a valued cultural asset, and connoisseurship of oil paintings is a favored pastime among the Chinese.  However, many Chinese fans of traditional oil painting are only able to experience the work on the internet and in print publications–not in person.

So, the Chinese audience is eager for an opportunity to view original work from the USA that is emblematic of the best realism and oil painting techniques in the field. ACOPAL will be a cross cultural organization that seeks to showcase contemporary realism in both the United States and China, through exhibitions, teaching, and communication between the artists in both countries.

Patty Watwood and ACOPAL
Patricia Watwood in front of several of her oil paintings
at the ACOPAL show.

Future ACOPAL projects will bring Chinese oil painting artists to US museums, and host workshops and lectures in both countries to share our processes and varied expertise in painting. I for one am very much looking forward to it.


For more painting instruction from Patricia, check out her latest DVD, Figure Painting: Realistic Skin Tone.

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Patricia Watwood

About Patricia Watwood

Patricia Watwood has studied painting with Jacob Collins at the Water Street Atelier, and also with Ted Seth Jacobs at Ecole Albert Defois. She earned her MFA with honors from New York Academy of Art.

Watwood paints nudes, figures, portraits and still lifes in the classical tradition. Her paintings draw on allegorical, mythological, and narrative themes. She continues the classical pursuits of representational painting, with an eye on the contemporary world. The recurring theme in her paintings is the spiritual human presence. Watwood states, “Formal training is the indispensable underpinning of my practice. I seek to follow and build upon the artistic intelligence and traditions of the past, and bring them anew to my own generation.”

Watwood has exhibited in group and solo shows in New York, Paris, Houston, San Francisco and Long Island.  Her work is represented by John Pence Gallery in San Francisco. Her figurative paintings have been included in several museum shows, including “Enchantment” at the Hartford Art School, “Slow Painting,” at the Oglethorpe Museum; “The Great American Nude,” at the Bruce Museum of Arts and Sciences; and in “Representing Representation VI,” at the Arnot Museum. Her work has been featured in numerous art publications including International Artist, and a recent cover article in American Artist magazine.
Watwood also does portrait commissions, and is represented by Portraits, Inc.  Her recent projects include a portraits for Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government, and the former Mayor of St. Louis, for St. Louis City Hall.  Watwood is currently teaching at the New York Academy of Art, and at the Teaching Studios of Art in Brooklyn. 

Watwood and her husband and two daughters live in Brooklyn, New York.

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