Pagan Saints And Christian Dreamers In The Surreal Academism Of Anthony Ackrill
07 december 2022 
9 min. read

Pagan Saints And Christian Dreamers In The Surreal Academism Of Anthony Ackrill

"I'm not one to intellectualize about my pictures and try to explain what I do. If I were to think about it too much and try to nail down where it is that my pictures come from, or why, it would destroy the mystery that is in it for me" (, that's how the American artist Anthony Ackrill speaks about his works. As viewers, we can speculate on the content of his pictures without being afraid to ruin the mystery. Let's do this!


Fig. 1. Ackrill with a crocodile (

 anthony ackrill Relinquish

Fig. 2. Relinquish (

 anthony ackrill Seduction of Noah

Fig. 3. Seduction of Noah (

anthony ackrill Kindred

Fig. 4. Kindred (

anthony ackrill July

Fig. 5. July (

anthony ackrill  Mermaid

Fig. 6. Mermaid (

Better Late Than Never

Anthony Ackrill was born in Alaska in 1958 but spent his childhood in Ohio and Florida. He studied graphic design and founded an advertising agency. Later, these studies were followed by self-training in drawing and painting. Like Catherine Abel, the heroine of one of our previous articles, Ackrill received professional training after his initial success as a self-taught painter. He enrolled in the Florence Academy of Art in 1995, at the age of 37.

Anatomy Instructor

This relatively late start didn't affect his artistic personality and skill. Unlike Abel, who doesn't like formal training, as she confesses, Ackrill spent five years at the Academy. Curiously, already after one year of studies, he became an anatomy instructor and occupied this position for four years until he graduated. As Ackrill says in his artist statement, "In this system, the pupil studies with a master until the student has become a master as well. Often the pupil then becomes a teacher, passing on a continuous body of knowledge, generation after generation" (

 anthony ackrill Dusk

Fig. 7. Dusk (

anthony ackrill mermaid

Fig. 8. Two mermaids (

 ackrill  Newborn painting

Fig. 9. Newborn (

 nthony ackrill Transformation

Fig. 10. Transformation (

Anatomy of Melancholy

Four years of studying and teaching anatomy affected Ackrill paintings a lot. The artist focuses mainly on the human body, though this fascination is not that in the works of Roberto Ferri, where the muscles are emphasized like in Michelangelo's oeuvres. At the same time, Ackrill's nudes look more human than these of the most famous academist Bouguereau. The academism of the artist manifests itself in the varieties of poses that allow depicting different angles and curves of the body. The dramatic pose often provides the content of the image and becomes a mourning male or female, who originate from Greek or Roman legends.

ackrill lying nude

Fig. 11.

 anthony ackrill  Dusk at Crying Rock

Fig. 12. Dusk at Crying Rock (

In Premium, you can check out an extended version of the article with more on Ackrill's religious paintings and the similarities to Dali and Andrea Mantegna's work, the influence of the old masters on him, and more enticing examples of his paintings..

Click HERE for the Renaissance inferno of the Italian master Roberto Ferri


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About the author
Darya is a philologist who lives and works in Saint-Petersburg, Russia. She is specialized in Russian literature.


on 07 Dec 2022

Hello Darya, I'm hoping that you can help me identify an artist from a description of style. I had a computer crash last spring and lost many images that were organized by artist. This one, I cannot remember his (her?) name and cannot find again on the internet. I believe they are Japanese and their web site is not in English. They are a contemporary artist. The style is that of very simple woodblock prints (or a similar look, if not actual woodblock. It's difficult to tell these days). There are very few simple colors and patterns colors, and the shapes are very simple, with flower motifs. The texture of the color block is lightly mottled, like woodblock (though I know that can be simulated with computer). Basically, it looks traditional and minimalist graphic-design in style. The content is usually the female form: the curve of a breast and shoulder, a turned head with jaw line, perhaps just the tip of the nose and lip visible (maybe an eyelash), and the suggestion of a kimono off the shoulder. It is all bust (waist-up) but definitely not portraits (you can barely see the faces). The girls look young (at least in their simplified aesthetic). It's all very stylized, graphical, simple, in a traditional way. It is more simple and traditional looking than Junichi Nakahara. The eroticism is undeniable, but subtle and conceptual rather than explicit. Any ideas? Your help would be appreciated. Thanks! Ben PS. thank you for your work in the area of erotic art!



on 12 Dec 2022

Thank you, Ben. Well, to find something on the subject, you can check sites like Ebo Gallery where some modern woodblock printmakers are introduced. To be honest, I'm not quite a specialist in this field, so I can't recognize what you're looking for.

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