Is Alfred Leslie Real Life or Fantasy?

By Victoria Remley 

“Alfred Leslie and the Tradition of American Realism” at the Butler Institute of American Art presented Leslie’s work with technology and art in a way unseen before. His newest collection at the Butler presented a twist to American Realism paintings.

Leslie, a 90-year-old artist, combined painted portraits with technology to create a new style of artwork. He came to Youngstown to see the exhibit and thought it was beautifully installed. He could not say enough about it.

Marianne Nissen, of Warren, Ohio, said the show was unique and the concept of Leslie’s collection was unusual, and Leslie’s collection gave portraits a different face.

“It’s a totally different way and technique of showing portraits,” she said. “You know, doing portraits is ancient. It’s in all art periods and this is pretty unique.”

Nissan said by going through Leslie’s work, viewers could figure out who he meant to portray in each painting. She thought Leslie’s paintings were just what he thought fantasy fiction should look like.

Leslie’s use of fantasy figures in his work was unique for the time he created the paintings. Fantasy figures are quickly created, brightly colored paintings with lavish costumes painted on the muse.

J Harvard Feldhouse/The Jambar

Susan Rowley, a docent from Trumbull County, said “Alfred Leslie and the Tradition of American Realism” reinforced what she knew about Leslie. She said the Butler possesses many pieces by Leslie, but his art in “Alfred Leslie and the Tradition of American Realism” collection involved a whole new technology.

“To me, that is such a big transition that it’s just amazing to see the process of how he’s grown as an artist,” she said. “It’s very inspiring because I would never take on this technology at 90. I have a hard time with Photoshop and all that stuff as it is.”

People at the lecture got to marvel at a Leslie painting in person. Bringing a Leslie painting to the Trumbull Branch of the Butler was significant because unless people are in a big city, they cannot see a Leslie painting.

Cynthia Foust, a docent-in-training from Youngstown, came to the lecture to hear Leslie talk and to make friends with the other docents.

“I’m a little nervous about it. I’m used to talking about nature, not art, which is a little different. It is fact based instead of ‘wow what do you see,’ which is exciting,” she said.

Louis Zona, director of The Butler Institute of American Art, was immensely impressed by the collection of Leslie’s paintings.

“While he’s known for his what we call new realist paintings, these are a combination of paintings and digital technology,” he said. “At 90 some years old, that’s pretty amazing.”