Beginning Friday, July 1, Haynes Galleries, 91 Main St./Route 1, will offer “American Realism: Works on Paper, 1862-2011.” The public is invited to an opening reception from 5 to 8 p.m.; the exhibit will run through Aug. 4.

There is something personal and immediate that is unique to paper. In some cases, notes, scribbles, eraser smudges, even a stray fingerprint serve as evidence of the artist’s hand and mind at work; in others, a finished watercolor or photograph captures a light, a translucency that another medium simply cannot.

“With some artists, there’s a looseness, a freedom, but with others, the works are finished and very detailed,” said gallery owner Gary Haynes. “You can get the best of both worlds.”

The best of both worlds is what this show promises. Haynes has assembled a range of work impressive in its breadth and depth. A selection of Winslow Homer’s letters, wood engravings and original drawings — the earliest of which dates to 1862 — serves as the exhibit’s cornerstone. From there, the show builds and surprises with the sensuality of a nude by John Singer Sargent, the drama of Yousuf Karsh’s black and white portraits, the exuberance of Jamie Wyeth’s sketch of Arnold Schwarzenegger on corrugated cardboard and the shimmer of John Guider’s platinum palladium print “Statue of Liberty.”

Though some consider works on paper studies or sketches leading up to a finished painting, this exhibit will cause viewers to reconsider the medium. With a roster of artists that reads like a who’s who of 19th, 20th and 21st century American realism, “Works on Paper” proves that such are not merely the first work — often, they are the best work.

Gallery hours are Mondays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and by appointment. For more information, contact Gary Haynes at 615-429-1727 or visit haynesgalleries.com.

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