The new Haynes Galleries will open its newest show, “The Portrait in American Realism,” Friday, July 30 at 91 Main St./Route 1. The public is invited to an opening reception from 5 to 7 p.m. for the exhibition, which will feature both paintings and drawings from 19th, 20th and 21st century American realists.

Dating back to the earliest form of artistic expression on cave walls, the human figure has remained a constant source of inspiration for artists throughout the centuries, said Gary R. Haynes.

“This exhibit will serve as a visual exploration of the changing approach to portrait making in America,” he said.

For more than 200 hundred years, the tradition of American realism in portraiture has inspired both artists and their patrons in America’s elite society. As the middle class grew, so too did artistic interpretations of the common man or woman as evidenced in the works of Norman Rockwell, Andrew Wyeth and Neil Drevitson.

Best known as the painter of American society, John Singer Sargent became increasingly interested in drawing studies in his latter years. His charcoal drawing of the fair-haired and rosy-cheeked young noble, Sir William Hedworth Williamson, 10th Baronet, is as invigorating as a breath of fresh air. Haynes Galleries is featuring two Sargent drawings in “The Portrait in American Realism” exhibit, along with works by his contemporaries William Paxton and Frank Duveneck; and his former art teacher and mentor, Carolus-Duran.

Contemporary American realism has as many facets as it does artists. Today, artists combine their realist style with classical art, romanticism, abstraction, surrealism and impressionistic luminosity, all introducing unique perspectives to portraiture. While New York artist Jacob Collins applies a classical style to his portraiture, California’s Jeremy Lipking approaches his subjects more like that of the 19th century naturalists. Yet both artists’ works are imbued in underlying romanticism.

Included in the exhibit will be the playful works of Jamie Wyeth’s “Study for Lighthouse,” “Kyle and the Influence” and “Arnold Schwarzenegger.” Steven Scott Young’s thoughtful and sensitive depictions of impoverished Bahamian women and children and Mario Robinson’s insightful studies of the people living in the rural South offer a glimpse into lives unseen.

Equally as important as the subject and the sitters in portrait painting is the technique applied by the various artists. Painterly portraits by Rose Frantzen and Michael Shane Neal will be juxtaposed with the more exacting illustrative portraits of Anthony Ryder and Haynes. The exhibit offers the viewer a select cross-section of contemporary and traditional American realism fine art.

The show will run through Aug. 26. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. For more information, visit haynesgalleries.com.

VillageSoup Art/Entertainment Editor Dagney Ernest can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail to dernest@villagesoup.com.