Masterclasses & Workshops

The Human Still Life
By: Ellen Altfest
19 Jun 2017 - 21 Jun 2017
Fee Application Deadline
€350 May 19, 2017
Sorry, we are no longer accepting applications for this workshop.

Using live models, participants will find and express a subjective response to the human form. Working entirely from direct observation, with a fidelity to what is before us, participants will consider composition as the primary tool to express an individual perspective. Students will make a series of exercises and studies and work their way to a final composition that will become a finished painting. The figure will be considered as one element in a larger visual framework. Altfest will discuss how the models are posed, what is included or excluded within the frame of the canvas. Each morning participants will look to images from other painters, past and present, to consider their approaches and solutions, and participate in group critiques at the end of the day. Technical aspects of drawing and painting will be discussed as well as more idea based problems. The participants will make a painting that is strong in both form and content.

Since leaving Yale School of Art Ellen Altfest has developed her own distinct and devoted approach to a figurative and representational painting. The writer and artist David Humphrey notes how ‘her paintings celebrate the way objects become engulfed by their surroundings and simple acts of identification multiply and transform’.

Altfest always paints from life, drawn towards domestic plants, vegetables and more recently, male models. Altfest immerses herself in an intense analysis and personal engagement with the subject that pushes her vision beyond the real.

Compositionally the paintings are all tightly edited and framed, almost encroaching on the subject’s space whether it be the nucleus of tumbleweed through to the wrinkled skin of a cacti next to the neckline of the sitter. Altfest approaches her various subjects with a similar intent, spending hours of careful observation and study that results in images that although appear voyeuristic are portrayed with a deadpan humour and utmost vigilance towards her painting process.

Ellen Altfest received an MFA from Yale University. She attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (2002) and was awarded a studio at the Marie Walsh Sharpe art foundation (2004-5). In 2004 she was a resident at the Dorland Mountain Art Center in the foothills of Temecula, CA. She now lives and works in New York City. Since her solo exhibition at White Cube in 2007 she has completed a residency and solo exhibition at the Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas (2010), White Cube Hoxton Square, London (2011) the New Museum, New York (2012) and Milton Keynes Gallery, (2015). Recent group exhibitions include ‘Paint New York’, Kunstforeningen GL Strand, Copenhagen (2014), ‘The Encyclopedic Palace’, Venice Biennale (2013), ‘It Is What It Is, Or Is It?’ Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (2012), The National Academy Museum’s Annual Exhibition, New York, ‘Today’ at the Royal Academy of Arts, London and ‘Men’ a group exhibition she curated at I-20 Gallery in New York (2006).


As part of the RHA School Access Programme, two free places on will be offered on each of the RHA School workshops, courses and masterclasses. One to an artist currently enrolled at any of the third level art colleges in Ireland and the other to an artist of merit at any stage of their career. These additional free places have been made available through the generosity of an anonymous donor. Artists and art students who wish to be considered for these places should include a Cover Letter providing a short statement indicating how they would benefit from attending the relevant workshop, masterclass or course with their online application.

Queries about any of the RHA School classes, workshops or masterclasses should be forwarded to the Academy Co-ordinator, Kate McBride. Phone: 01-6612558 or email: