History of the Blue Ridge Realists
In 1968, an artistic movement emerged in the piedmont and western regions of North Carolina, following in the rural realism tradition of the Tryon artist colony founded in the late 19th Century. The originators of the movement, Bob Timberlake and Ward Nichols, sought to include gifted artists who shared the idea of exploring rural realism. The movement grew to include Hal Bryant, Cotton Ketchie, Jack Greenfield, William Mangum, Phillip Philbeck, John Furches, Gary Freeman, Jason Drake, Richard Oversmith, Scott Boyle and Frederick Craig Franz, though most of the artists did not consider themselves creators of a new movement. The members were inspired by the work of Andrew Wyeth, as well as the Impressionist, American Tonalist and Barbizon schools of thought. The group came to be known as The Blue Ridge Realists.
Each individual artist is free to explore their own style and particular working methods while feeding off the creative energy of their fellow members. With the movement marking its 50th year, it is significant to recognize that the group has remained relevant. In order to keep a fluid, loosely knit creative spirit, the Blue Ridge Realists have added some exceptional young artists into their ranks. These artists include: Jeremy Sams, Clayton Pennell and Chris Bell.
It is anticipated that the Blue Ridge Realists will remain a proponent for and active promotor of rural realism in North Carolina as divergent ways of creative landscape painting are explored.
Jeff Church, BRR Biographer