Odd = The Establishment

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*Od Nerdrum and Robert Scruton panelE75A6146

Panel discussion with Roger Scruton and Odd Nerdrum

The most exciting part of this conference for me was a panel with Odd Nerdrum and Roger Scruton.  Wow! is all I have to say.  It’s really hard to put into words what it was like—you really had to be there. I couldn’t really follow what was being said because I would constantly lose the thread whenever Odd would speak. I took notes, but they didn’t make sense. Being confused and not wanting to talk as the panel was going on, I texted my friends, Ricky Majica and Alex Haskel, to help give me some idea of what these two would be saying to each other:

The Meeting photo - nerdrum institute

The Meeting
photo – nerdrum institute

Ricky told me about seeing Odd’s first U.S. show back in the early 80s: “…he was like a Rembrandt. I was so impressed because it was a time when you couldn’t give a traditional realist painting away. Odd sold out the show…and he got prices that at that time I didn’t know a realist could get. The work was amazing, he dealt with serious subjects and had a mastery of execution, a jewel-like luminosity, and a beauty of application that you didn’t see every day….His work isn’t even a shadow of what it was anymore.”

The Storm Photo compliments of The Nerdrum Institute

The Storm
Photo compliments of The Nerdrum Institute

Alex thought that Scruton was “an extremely intelligent and eloquent guy” and  “an adorer of beauty,” whereas Odd’s subjects are often “grotesque and disgusting” and his views, eccentric and confusing.  Odd once claimed, for instance, that “All the best painters before Rembrandt look like Rembrandt and all the best painters after Rembrandt look like Rembrandt…”

Roger Scruton

Roger Scruton

From what I could hear, I agreed with Ricky that Roger Scruton just wanted to put beauty back into the world of art.  He was also a hilarious and eloquent speaker. The last topic Roger spoke about before the question and answer time was Rembrandt’s prodigal son.  He said, looking at the painting you could see how truly sorry the son was and the father had to forgive him.  I wondered if this was sort of a psychological olive branch to Odd.  If it was, it didn’t really work, for Odd started off on a tangent about how Rembrandt was the same as Michelangelo and Michelangelo was the same as Rembrandt.

Odd Nerdrum after the discussion

Odd Nerdrum after the discussion

Afterwords, I asked a few people what they thought about the debate (without giving any indication about what I thought).  Everyone seemed to agree that it was interesting.  Then there was an awkward pause: it felt like they didn’t know what else to say and they didn’t want to say anything bad.  Of course, I finally said, I didn’t really “get” what Odd was saying, which gave everyone permission to agree.

I should, in all fairness, mention that Michael Pearce, commenting on the conference, saw Roger and Odd less at odds even on the topic of beauty, claiming that Odd often pulls “beauty from ugliness and distress.” Hmmm didn’t really see that, but it was a very interesting discussion.



Shelli Alford is an artist and author, who enjoys learning from master oil painters from around the world and reviewing their classes, workshops and demonstrations.

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