Luis Alvarez Roure, “Golden Moment, Portrait of Steven Isserlis,” 2020, Oil on linen, 50 x 60 in.

How Luis Alvarez Roure, who will be among the faculty members of Realism Live, has transposed his musical “bravura” into the world of art.

Realism Live Faculty Highlight: The Virtuosities of Luis Alvarez Roure

Renaissance poet Torquato Tasso argued that music was one of the three virtues capable of elevating the human soul to heavenly bliss. The other two were poetry and art: poetry as an imitation of nature and therefore grasped in its ideal meaning, and art as an embankment of madness. Luis Alvarez Roure, who will be among the faculty members of Realism Live (online November 10-12, 2023), with his remarkable musical background mentions a quote from Claude Debussy – among his favorite musicians – along the lines that music is the arithmetic of sounds just as colors are the geometry of light.

realism portrait painting
Luis Alvarez Roure, “Alexander,” Oil on panel, 12 x 12 in.

Originally from Puerto Rico, Luis left his homeland to move to New York City, where, in the company of his inseparable wife Maritza, he earned his master’s degree in music. Having achieved his goal – followed at the suggestion of his father who wanted him to hone his ear to music by declining this sensibility to all aspects of life – Luis chose to devote himself to art: his other great passion.

In New York he attended the Art Students League: among the most prestigious American art institutions from which modern and contemporary artists who have made American art history have passed. Among his teachers, one in particular captured his attention both for his unique way of capturing the essence of the subjects depicted and for his particular vision of art understood as an exaggeration of form and color: Nelson Shanks, a prominent figure in the milieu, who was both a mentor and a teacher of life for him.

Thanks to the teachings he received and to his undoubted stubbornness, Luis was able to transpose his musical “bravura” – a term that in musical circles represents a passage of great intensity – into the world of art, with his virtuosic and flamboyant brushstrokes. This led him to relegate his passion for the piano to pure personal enjoyment or for a few intimate moments to share with family or friends in the company of Maritza. “In addition to being an extraordinary pianist, Maritza is also my first art critic as she possesses an incredible critical eye capable at times of putting me in awe,” the artist said about his wife.

Luis Alvarez Roure, “Masquerade,” 2020, Oil on linen, 46 x 40 in., Draper Grand Prize and People Choice Award winner at the 24th Portrait Society of America. Private Collection.
Luis Alvarez Roure, “Masquerade,” 2020, Oil on linen, 46 x 40 in., Draper Grand Prize and People Choice Award winner at the 24th Portrait Society of America. Private Collection.

Choosing to be a full-time painter, throwing himself heart and soul into art and grasping the facets that art and music have in common, has borne prodigious fruit as Luis has won major awards, including the title of Living Master recognized by the Art Renewal Center (ARC) and being named the winner of the prestigious Draper Grand Prize and People’s Choice Award, given by the Portrait Society of America at its 24th annual meeting. His works today are in renowned public and private collections, including the National Gallery – Smithsonian, the Federal Reserve in Washington, D.C., and the Museu Europeu d’Art Modern in Barcelona, Spain.

figurative art painting
Luis Alvarez Roure, “Joshua Bell,” 2019, Oil on linen, 60 x 40 in., Collection of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington D.C.

Technically speaking, Luis’s drawing and painting take shape directly on the canvas without the execution of preparatory sketches. “Sometimes the studies are so good that they don’t need to be worked again and I am completely satisfied and then there is no energy anymore to do a new one based on the study because the energy is in it,” he said.

While Luis initially relied on grisaille as a compositional tool of reference for the creation of his works, nowadays he moves absolutely freely to the point of considering the grisaille a veritable prison, capable of limiting his freedom of expression and constraining any compositional variations in the process.

His compositional process is based on painting alla prima, working from life with a series of light traces made in pencil and on which he then imprints color boldly, almost aggressively, bringing out all the emotion aroused by the subject to be represented.

“I like to go directly to the painting,” he said, “and I like very much that surprise that I don’t know exactly what it will be like. And to me, this is very exciting.”

In order to focus on details that may escape visual memory, however, the artist makes hundreds of photographs captured from different angles that highlight details that might otherwise escape visual memory. During the compositional process, in order to adhere as closely as possible to his intentions, he tends to constantly ask himself the question, “What am I looking for?” It’s a question that brings him back to the original forma mentis by preventing the brain from incurring historical memory that would mislead him from his intentions of offering sensations instead of unnecessary details of the subject.

realism portrait painting
Luis Alvarez Roure, “Philip Glass,” 2016, Oil on panel, 16 x 16 in., Collection of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington D.C.

Unlike many realist painters, Luis Alvarez Roure admires the works of Édouard Manet, particularly “Olympia,” a work preserved at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, where he had the pleasure of contemplating the painting in person this year.

According to Luis, Manet initiated modern painting by absolutely rejecting the labels of the time, first and foremost that of Impressionist painters. What strikes Luis about Manet is his way of separating the subject in an almost sculptural way from the background, not dwelling on details but rather on the sensations that arise from them and the ability to make real what is purely the result of sensations.

A process that is the basis of his current modus operandi and of which he said, “What I’m trying to do is to explore all myself and try to give you the feelings of something very real but don’t necessarily have to be expressed with details. For me, this is a miracle.” It was a mental and pictorial process that took many years before it came into focus.

According to Luis, in order to hone drawing skills and approach the use of color with painting, it is necessary to study the great masters of the past, especially the works left unfinished from which it is possible to discover the secrets of the great masters. Above all, he believes it is important to translate color images into black and white images without the aid of various equipment, as the understanding of tonal values precedes and facilitates the use of colors.

figurative art realism painting
Luis Alvarez Roure, “Spring,” 2019, Oil on wood, 42 x 24 in.

For his 2023 Realism Live demonstration, Luis will show how to carry out the initial stages of a portrait executed with a live model. His approach will surprise you with the simplicity with which he can take you into his world in which details give way to virtuosity. He captures the sublime emotions that come from connecting with and observing the subjects depicted, whose expressions and poses convey the sense of life that comes not only from observation but also from an intuitive connection with people.

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