‘Art is my passion and lifetime adventure;
I relish being able to dedicate each and every day to the art of creating.’
– Angela Stratton
By Irene Ruddock
Angela Stratton, whose artistry is described as traditional realism, was schooled in the old master’s tradition at the Reilly League of Artists. She was mentored by Cesare Borgia who strongly emphasized portrait and figure drawing, painting from life, working from casts, and copying old masters such as Velazquez, Vermeer, Rembrandt and Rubens.
After over twenty years of study, Ms. Stratton was asked to supplement Borgia’s teaching responsibilities and has since emerged as an award-winning artist who has exhibited country-wide. Today, she belongs to numerous organizations such as the Catherine Lorillard Wolf Art Club, the Portrait Society of America, the Salmagundi Club, and the Oil Painters of America. She continues to teach and to seek continuous study through workshops, demonstrations, and museum lecture series.
I recently caught up with the artist to get her views on her prestigious career.
Was there a defining moment when you decided to follow the path of traditional realism?
Yes. I did draw as a child, but my true inspiration came in my early years of employment at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, wandering the great rooms intrigued by the old master paintings. It was there that I decided to become an artist.
What do you remember most about the influence of your mentor Cesare Borgia?
He had so such love and enthusiasm for art that it became contagious. But I mostly remember his encouraging me to persevere and to pursue research. He encouraged me to develop my own style and to “be true to myself.” Through the years, I developed a such a strong bond with him and his wife Margy, that she told me I was the daughter they never had. Many years later, I painted her portrait and gave it the title ‘Beautiful Spirit’ as she was truly deserving of that title.
What artists do you especially admire?
That is difficult to answer as there are so many great artists with different styles who make each one unique. One of my favorites is John Singer Sargent, whose fluid strokes helped make him the leading portrait painter of his generation. He is often known for his scandalous painting of Madame X. I also admire William A. Bouguereau for his superb draftsmanship and classical paintings of the female form. His painting of the “Birth of Venus” is often described as the epitome of classical Green and Roman form of the female body.
You have a wide range of paintings which depict landscapes, portraiture and still life. Which are you most well known for?
I have always been known for my portraiture and figures, but since retiring, I have been able to put more focus on still life and plein air painting as well. However, portraiture is still my favorite. As people we are all so different and yet so much alike. We all possess a magnificent spirit inside us. I hope to capture that essence whether in a child’s eye or an elderly smile. I enjoy doing commissions and strive to find the magic in each person.
How do you choose your objects for your still lifes such as the ones in your well known painting Life’s Phases?
Each object in the painting tells a bit about the phases of my life from my childhood love of ice skating, to my toy and doll phase, and to the years when I discovered baseball. When I do still life commissions, I encourage people to bring symbols of their life so I can paint the objects that tell a story representing them in a unique way. In this way, a person can create their own painting.
In today’s world of abstract, contemporary design, do you think the realistic tradition will survive?
I do not think realism will ever disappear with so many museums abundantly displaying wonderful traditional art. Even today there are many art organizations and magazines that continue to emphasize the realistic tradition.
Are students lacking today if they are not taught a rigorous classic background?
My belief is that some study on basic drawing techniques are vital regardless of one’s direction. ‘You need to know the rules before you can break them’!
What awards have meant the most to you?
All awards are special, but I do remember being extremely excited when I was accepted as a finalist into the 2015 International Art Renewal Center, which is the largest, most prestigious realist art competition in the world.
Do you have a favorite painting?
I remember once, while at the Met, I was asked if I needed to rescue one painting, which one would it be? I chose “The Wyndham Sisters” which was painted in 1899 by John Singer Sargent. One cannot help but to be in awe of such a masterpiece which was dubbed “The Three Graces” by the Prince of Wales.
Where do you exhibit now?
I am currently exhibiting in the Annual Invitational Exhibition at The Atelier at Flowerfield in St. James, Figuratively Speaking at the Salmagundi Club in New York City and The Big Picture at the Art League of Long Island located in Dix Hills. I encourage people to visit my website at strattongallery.com.