I've been drawn all my life to painters who spent long careers making more or less conventional realist pictures, then blossomed late in life into a kind of raw expressionism (though that was not the name given that style in earlier ages). These range from Rembrandt, Goya and Turner in Europe, to American painters of the Ashcan School, and later lifelong expressive artists such as those of the Bay Area Figurative School and easterners like  Fairfield Porter and Alice Neel. 

I have worked for over 40 years as a realist — albeit one with a sensitivity to the geometries of modernist formalism — but it was in the back of my head from the beginning that a more robust, expressive language and mark-making lurked within me too. I felt certain though that I wouldn't be able to do that kind of work to my satisfaction until I could paint masterfully, like a Jazz musician learning his or her scales before daring to improvise. This always struck me as the crucial ingredient in the achievements of the painters I admired most. Because of that belief, I've spent decades learning how to paint more classically (not only in terms of drawing or composing my pictures, but also in how to handle the paint surface, its colors and impression of light) in order to create a springboard from which a more powerful improvisational vocabulary might be launched. 

The newer works featured here are all in that latter vein. There is also a gallery of selected earlier realist pieces dating back to the late 1990s which illustrates the foundational skills and ideas on which this later work is built. 

—Christopher Benson