Newberry's VENUS, a Work in Progress

Ted Keer's picture
Submitted by Ted Keer on Mon, 2006-11-06 08:12

I had the pleasure of visiting Michael Newberry in his studio recently. I have been working on a write-up of my visit, but find I am being extra careful in my writing. So, rather than delay sharing this image of his most recent work in progress, I will simply post it without comment. Those who are not familiar with his work can view much, much more at

Ted Keer, 06 October, 2006, NYC

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Beautiful, Michael.

Ted Keer's picture

Beautiful, Michael.

Thought it would be good to

Newberry's picture

Thought it would be good to have the finished image posted here.

Master Fundamentals: Apply Your Sense of Life

Marnee's picture

Art is about mastering the fundamentals and then applying them to recreate your own ideas according to your personal sensibilities. If you have studied drawing and art in any sort of classical method, upon examination of Newberry's archives, it becomes obvious what a master he is. He is sure to only improve and develop. His spatial and color compositions are always well done and integrated (rhythmically). And his figures are excellently, sensously, and sensitively rendered. His huge archive is a testament to the deliberate and arduous study he has done. He fully understands himself as well as his craft. Newberry has not only mastered the fundamentals but he has managed to infuse all of his work with his own distinct and positively genuine style, his own sense of life.

Pursuit blows me away every time. If I could I would take lessons from him. I take some at the community college and I like my teacher but to have a teacher who puts that much life and emotion into his work would be a dream come true.

Ted, thanks for the info on

PhilipC's picture

Ted, thanks for the info on how to post images!

The Law

Prima Donna's picture

Well, I can tell you what the law is, and it's one of the reasons the Creative Commons license was created -- which is upheld internationally: Unless permission is granted to reprint or redistribute media of any type, it's not legal. For material that is quoted (as a resource or an example), a certain portion of it is permitted to be reprinted for quotation, but I'm not certain of the quantity.

Press releases, op-eds, etc. are for public consumption, so that is not an issue, and there is no link requirement unless a Creative Commons license is attached. For our material that is sent out via feed, it explicitly states that only the portion that is sent out, including thumbnail photos, is permitted for reproduction, and a link to the original material must be posted.

If you are copying an image that is in the public domain or has been released by a certain entity (i.e. Newberry), it's fine to present it, but to use their bandwidth to do so is illegal (and immoral). The right thing to do is to get your own hosting space online (e.g. Photobucket), post your photos there and link to them.


-- Food Philosophy. Sensuality. Sass.

Thanks, Jen

Ted Keer's picture

I had not thought about the fact that images are using up another site's bandwidth. I actually tried to get a book on copyright law and it said that basically nobody knows what the law is. And they wanted $39.95 to tell me that! I am not too concerned about old paintings and have been given permission to use Newberry's images. And I don't believe press releases are copyrighted either. But how about posting Ed Hudgin's works in full here without even the courtesy of a link to his site? I think the bandwidth issue is worth considering.


PS, I could not edit that Muppet mock-up, but I did at least plug them.


Prima Donna's picture

Guys, just please keep in mind that when you source images like this, you are using the bandwidth of the site that hosting them, and may be violating copyrights. I go mental when I see people do this with our photos, as it eats up our bandwidth -- which equals theft of services -- and in our case violates copyright.



-- Food Philosophy. Sensuality. Sass.

And Here's the Original

Ted Keer's picture

Phil, the brackets should be replaced with the less than & greater than characters found above the comma and period on standard keyboards. They did not show on my post below.


I strongly recommend the colect Muppet Show episodes now available on DVD. Excerpts had been available previously. I have bought the original releases for my nephew.



JoeM's picture

I like Muppets. But I never considered that all the pictures were consuming bandwith.

How To Insert an Image

Ted Keer's picture

Phil, it's easy. I usually find an image using Google. Type in your search words, click on the image prompt above that line, it will take you to the next page. Click on search, and you will get many results. Click on the image you want to use, and it will take you to an enframed page with a prompt at the top click here to view full sized image. When you do so, you should have a blank page with just the image on it. Then copy the url location for that image so that you can paste in into your text.

the url for the image below is:

Then, in your text, you must put [img src="url"] but use "<" and ">" instead of "[" and "]"


Ted, I did a detailed

PhilipC's picture

Ted, I did a detailed comparison with the famous Botticelli on the same theme: I don't know how to insert an illustration, but if anyone is really interested in my comparison, they can simply google Birth of Venus and have it in front of took me thirty seconds.

Glass Jar with Chocolate Boxes

Ted Keer's picture

Phil, I understand that you are an educator? One of the benefits of such a job is the variation it affords its practitioners. You progress through a subject, and then move on. Your students vary each year. You can (if you are at high enough a grade-level) vary your subject matter and how you present it within a wide range while fitting within the same curriculum.

I can tell you that I go through periods where I read only hard science, then linguistics, then essayists, all the while usually reading a new work of fiction. The music I listen to on Saturday nights differ from what I listen to on Sunday afternoons. When I write I sometimes go for strong metaphors. Sometimes I enjoy roundabout discursions. Sometimes assonance and alliteration. And whatever I write, I cannot force. It either comes or it does not. Anything I set myself to writing without an underlying inspiration usually ends up on the scrap heap after the first two paragraphs.

Michael Newberry is a prolific artist who graces us with the views of not only his finished masterpieces, but also with his exercises and his experiments and his uncompleted works. And, just as I know from my writing that the worst thing I can do to myself to curtail my productivity is to approach writing as an assignment that has to be completed in a set form, I understand that an artist has to experiment and let his subconscious express itself. You may also notice that some of Newberry's works are dated over a 10 year period. Atlas Shrugged took Rand eleven years, and then she produced no more finished fiction. Would anyone here rather that she had never written any philosophical essays? Or have sent her notes during the filming of the Fountainhead suggesting that she make Dominique's character more "realistic"?

I'm not an artist. You have qualified and retracted your criticisms, but by the end of your last post, you started smuggling them back in. You are entitled to your opinion. But it will be taken more seriously if it is illustrated and not just asserted. I would suggest that you post either one of Newberry's or another artist's images (like Botticelli's Venus) and let us know what you do or do not like about that specific piece and why. Just saying, unsupported, that it "sort of reminds me of the trend of modern art to discard the elements of the old-fashioned way of painting in order to express the painter's long-buried inner feelings in a totally subjective way...." without examples of a finished major work is unfair. Newberry actually categorizes his works under the headings of principal & singular works, and explorations. Look at them here. Give him the benefit of the doubt and analyze his work under the categories in which he himself presents them.

Here is one of his still life paintings, "Glass Jar with Chocolate Boxes." The colors alone are making my mouth water.

Ted Keer, 08 November, 2006

> I am not a fan of Michael

PhilipC's picture

> I am not a fan of Michael Newberry's art, which has received so many raves over the years from Objectivists. I don't view him as a master who has painstakingly acquired and displays the classical skills that representational art requires.

I want to withdraw these two statements of mine as very oversimplified.

On reconsidering and looking at "Pursuit" above -- the sensuous, romantic, dramatic scene of the woman in red and the man coming around the corner, at his website at some of his more realist works (I particularly like "A Writer and an Artist", from 1982, which is on his website), and remembering that I must have seen some of them at the Jefferson School, I see an entirely different style from some of his more Manet-like (sorry if that's not the right comparison) or "fuzzy" and undetailed work. In the 1982 work, a man and a woman seated near a desk, he shows classically-trained skill at capturing light, some measure of detail, a range of colors, and so on.

I guess what I don't understand is why he would largely discard this sort of realism and drama that the sharply-etched real world can best and most strikingly provide and this high level of skill to do predominantly? recently? works like the one I discussed at great length and compared to Botticelli's treatment of the same theme.

It sort of reminds me of the trend of modern art to discard the elements of the old-fashioned way of painting in order to express the painter's long-buried inner feelings in a totally subjective way....

Jennifer, You Make me Jealous

Ted Keer's picture

Twenty years ago, as a highschool teen who'd just found Rand, I got a subscription to whatever the Ayn Rand Newsletter was being called back then. I remember it had Binswanger's article on the goal-directedness of living action. I wasn't particularly impressed by the newsletter, it was mostly negative and uninteresting. But I still remember getting the insert with Newberry's Pursuit which is pictured here in it, and thinking that if I were ever rich enough to buy art, that was the kind of art I would want to buy.

That insert has been in storage for years. I had forgotten the name of the artist. When I recently got an email from Michael about some of my writing, and looked him up, I immediately loved the style of his work, especially, as Jennifer says, of Denouement. But I did not immediately associate him with the "blue" works that had been in that insert. Then I stumbled across "pursuit" and it was like I had met a best friend again after 20 years. Here is the image, be aware that the colors seem a bit washed out in this reproduction.

Ted Keer, 08 November, 2006


Prima Donna's picture

Michael's paintings *must* be seen in person to be properly judged. The luminosity of his colors is a sight to behold -- particularly in Denouement -- and it is one of the characteristics of his work I love most. I have a lovely Newberry in safe keeping right now, as the right spot has not yet been found for it, and I want to do it justice.


-- Food Philosophy. Sensuality. Sass.

I'm glad so many others here

Ted Keer's picture

I'm glad so many others here are taking up this thread. I have to second Dan's: "You can't judge a painting, any painting, from an online image. You have to see it in person, in good lighting." One of my favorite of Michael Newberry's works is Denouement which I found almost inscrutable until I saw a better reproduction of it. I also enjoy the fact that his themes are his own. Although, as in A Writer and an Artist, you can see a portrait of Rand on the wall behind the figures, the painting itself is not an Objectivist didactic.

While trying to get a postable image of his Sculpturess, (which you can find by clicking on the title here, and then clilcking on the small icon to the right under "Principal Works") I came across the work pictured below, "Crux" by Steven Kenny, which I enjoyed for its composition and sense of motion. The theme is apparently religious, with a bird taking flight being a time-honored maetaphor for the departure of the soul. Why there are eight cardinals, is obscure. And the fact that the figure's eyes are off canvas seems to imply the blindness of a mystic. Yet the piece is still compelling.


My 3 cents -

Olivia's picture

My favourites from his website are his portrait of "Puccini" - he has captured his languid, old world elegance as he leans back on his grand piano, smoking casually. The soft reds, yellows and turqoises speak an understated opulence and warmth, so does the gentle sheen of his suit.

Also "Longing" a self portrait is very, very sexy. It totally pulls me into its strength, that is, the strength of standing so vulnerably without weakness. Beautiful! So rare in men and women these days.

I love the sense of life in "Little Bird". It's full, vibrant and fun with depth and promise of things to look forward to.

Great work.

Dan Makes An Excellent Point

Jeff Perren's picture

I should have included this explicitly in my post.

You can't judge a painting, any painting, from an online image. You have to see it in person, in good lighting. I've seen many prints online and in magazines that looked stellar. They were crap in person. The converse is also true. I've seen online images and magazine photos of paintings that looked very ho-hum. In person they were spectacular.

Phil has done this, but not with this particular painting I gather. My post is not aimed particularly at him, but more generally.



Dan Edge's picture

I fully admit some "irrational exuberence" with respect to that statement.  I'm sure there is a lot of value in works at the Met that I haven't taken time to appreciate.  I would not discourage anyone from visiting the Met, certainly.  My comment was ignorant and wrong, and I retract it.

However, I do not retract my endorsement of Michael's work.  I do think one has to see it in person to fully appreciate it, particularly those works that were designed to be looked at in certain lighting (there are several of those, if I recall correctly).  I was trying in part to counter Phil's panning of Michael, which I think was unfair and inaccurate.

Thanks for encouraging intellectual integrity, Jeff.

--Dan Edge


Jeff Perren's picture


I generally enjoy reading your posts. You're very thoughtful. This, I thought out of line:

"I've been to the Metropolitan Museum of art a bunch of times, and there are maybe 1 in 1000 paintings there that are anywhere close to the quality of Michael's."

Discounting the modernists, that is simply nonsense on a stick. Run the numbers and you'll see that simply can't be the case. That said, I like Newberry ok. Certainly much more than Phil. I'm at a disadvantage having only seen them online, though.

My 2 Cents

Dan Edge's picture

I have also had the pleasure of visiting Michael Newberry's studio within the past few months, and I was very impressed by the expertise displayed in his work.  He paints all types of subjects in different mediums: still lifes in oil, landscapes in acryllic, nudes in charcoal, and much more.  Walking through Michael's living room is like walking through a museum of modern masters.  One can tell that with each new painting, he's still experimenting with ideas and creating new techniques and exploring new themes.

His figures are my favorites.  Check out: Atemis, Counterpose, and Dreams of Round Things.  This last I must admit some bias for, since the model is the love of my life.  But it's a beautiful drawing in its own right.

Most of Michael's paintings tell a story.  I see the person in his painting and think: I want to get to know that person.  He/she looks like there something very special about him/her.  I share values with that person.  In short, I get psychological visibility from the characcters in his paintings, and from the sense of life that created them.

I've been to the Metropolitan Museum of art a bunch of times, and there are maybe 1 in 1000 paintings there that are anywhere close to the quality of Michael's.  I would highly recommend to any art lover that he check out Michael's website and make an appointment with him if possible to look at his work. 

--Dan Edge 

Newberry does like the

Ted Keer's picture

Newberry does like the Impressionists, and was critical of Maxfield Parrish, who has always pleased me with his crispness and colors. I am glad you found more at his site that you liked. Not being a painter I would be reticent to offer advice to someone who could paint this work [Venus] from a real life model without camera obscura as did Vermeer. In any case, upon seeing this in real life, my first remark was that it did resemble Parrish, which, given the color, landscape, and state of completion, he conceded.

Pictured is Aquamarine one of Parrish's lesser works.

On his website, I've just

PhilipC's picture

On his website, I've just discovered some works which are in a different and better style...

> "work in progress" I made

PhilipC's picture

> "work in progress"

I made comments on his body of work, many of which when -finished- look like this and have the identical flaws. It's far enough along and his general tendencies to omit color and detail are established. That's why the Botticelli comparison side by side is illuminating.

Should he completely rework it and add these things, I will withdraw my comments. But this seems to be a 'modernist' or post Impressionist style he likes or is committed to. He reminds me a bit of Manet (who I like even less).

I am glad to have elicited your comments Phil,

Ted Keer's picture

But I don't understand which parts of "work in progress" and "without comment" you don't get. I'll post at length when I have spent the time that the issues merit.


BTW, I like Botticelli, and don't give a f*ck about a painter's politics when judging his works. I didn't meet with Caravaggio. That's why I didn't post an unfinished work of Caravaggio's.

Newberry's Art...and a Historic Comparison

PhilipC's picture

The arts are extremely important to the future of any cultural or philosophical movement. It's vitally important for Objectivists to give their unvarnished opinions when Oists put on public display creative works of art or literature or poetry or sculpture - or non-fiction essays. It is important to not merely be supportive or take a position in solidarity because they are on 'our side' ... the way liberals do for other liberals, or writers do for their "buddies" in the mainstream press:

I am not a fan of Michael Newberry's art, which has received so many raves over the years from Objectivists. I don't view him as a master who has painstakingly acquired and displays the classical skills that representational art requires.

That said, I like what I can see of this Venus painting better than other of Newberry's paintings over many years. But this is still a flawed or, at best, an incomplete work. Which may or may not be part of being a work in progress.

The face of Venus has more force than other faces I've seen over the years in Newberry's work. And the pose compared to Botticelli's "Birth of Venus" is at least -intended- to be more dramatic. But it still is exaggerated, sort of a Bouguereau-like phony open-mouthedness and head-tilting (one cannnot be sure if it's supposed to be ecstasy, but the classical theme is supposed to be awakening or birth). And that's the only thing it doesn't do worse than Botticelli's very famous version of the myth of Venus's birth that he is doing another interpretation of. Newberry's is more fuzzy and amateurish (like late Impressionism) and with more washed out colors, lacking gradations and highlights than, for example, the Botticelli. And I don't have a clear sense of a mood or an emotion. What is she feeling or experiencing, exactly? (Aside: Having clearly visible, if not sensuously flowing, hair would improve this painting...instead of only barely suggesting she possesses hair.)

The thread states this is a work in progress, but there is a sameness to many of Newberry's finished nudes I've seen. For example, often the same shade of bleached pink. Which is not very realistic and looks like a bad case of sunburn. The background combines the same shade of pink against some blue for the mountains. And the ocean is flat and featureless and could have been done with one or two brush strokes, like housepainting.

I saw a couple of N's paintings up close at a recent summer conference and the colors do look better "live" than in a photo. And that luminosity was one thing I like about his work. But I get the feeling that less time and thought was expended on them than was the case with the works of the major artist, the ones we know from history and art books, like Botticelli or Vermeer or Rembrandt. There is no attempt to paint in much detail or three-dimensional depth or richness. It's not clear if the goddess is emerging from a shell or from rocks or what exactly. Is she seated on something pink and fluffy or hard like rock or a shell? Why is it the exact same pink as her body? Did she discard her skin? Certainly doesn't make for visual interest and provides a certain drab sameness. And there is essentially -nothing else- in the foreground or middle ground. It's as if she and the rocks and that dreadfully flat and uniteresting ocean which takes up nearly half the painting are all there is in a cartoon universe. The painting, as in that of a child, doesn't have texture, depth, details. It as if it were a painting of an abstraction seen through a mist. For comparison, look at Botticelli's famous Venus to see how a truly great and skilled artist handles this same mythological theme.

[Correction: Newberry's body of Venus is the one part that has much gradations and shading and is akin in that respect to the body of Venus in the Botticelli.]

Did Newberry deliberately restrict himself to -only- use two colors, blue and pink in combination? Believe it or not there are more than two colors in existence in the universe, or when you look around you in the world, and good (representational) art should use most of them. OK, maybe this is supposed to be dawn, but it's simply not clear looking at it. That's another flaw in the painting - the time of day is ambiguous - as if the artist made no clear decision or did not have the skill to render different times of day.

As an art lover, I've spent a great deal of time studying and looking at great art in my life -- visiting museums in Europe and America, and noting the standards skilled and forceful representational art across centuries lives up to. And I do think that all of those (Oists most definitely included) who paint or write or do other creative things have to measure themselves and be measured against the best that is out there in history. Be called to rise to excruciatingly high and timeless standards, not be measured against the low bar of 'modern art' or non-representational art.


To give a better idea of what achievement is possible given the same theme, I am looking at Botticelli's Birth of Venus right now (I have also seen it 'live' in the Uffizi, where its colors are enormously powerful and moving):

The shell is clearly drawn, so you can see it is a shell. Venus's hair is delicately and finely drawn with precise brush strokes and it shades gradually from brown to gold. The painting is filled with a wealth of telling detail (something nearly completely lacking in Newberry's work, as if he were painting an abstract principle rather than something which has concrete and specific form in the real world). There is the woman on the right, with a delicate and flowing dress, and a pastel cloak or drapery she is throwing around the nude Venus and the male and female 'winds' on the left, blowing her into shore. The wind itself is made visible in many ways, from the effects on clothing to the flowers fluttering in the breeze to the blue gust itself. The waves underneath the shell that it is riding on are clearly delinated as is the shoreline itself, very necessary in representational realism. (They are neither fuzzy nor ignored, nor omitted, a la Newberry.) The trees are made real by careful drawing as is every shape, every entity, every person. Representational painting is best when it is specific and precise (not a "floating abstraction", as is the case in Newberry). Notice also the skill in gradual and delicate shadings of the sky, of the clothing, of the sea and the shoreline. Notice also how Botticelli uses a full palette of colors, not just dark blue and pink: Green and white shoreline. Pale blue shadings on Aeolus's robe. Golden hair. Dark green and light green and brown trees. Hhe doesn't just strip them away and omit these details from the painting.

This is not to say one has to copy Botticelli or his style. But, yes, one has to copy as much as is in one's capacity of his painstaking skill.

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