Art Styles: Photorealism Art

Richard Estes photo realist painting "Bus Reflections"Photo Realism is a figurative movement that emerged in the United States and Britain in the late 1960s and 1970s. The subject matter, usually everyday scenes, is portrayed in an extremely detailed, exacting style. It is also called super-realism, especially when referring to sculpture.

Photo-Realism consists if Realist paintings and sculptures involving thorough reproduction of detail. In painting the results are nearly photographic , and are indeed made from photographs. Although its center was in the United States, the Photo-Realism movement was also strong in Europe from the late 1960s into the 1970s. Among the most highly regarded American photorealist painters are Richard Estes (his painting "Bus Reflections" shown here), Chuck Close, (his painting "The Dalai Lama" is shown below) and Ralph Goings.

As a full-fledged art movement, Photorealism evolved from Pop Art and as a counter to Abstract Expressionism as well as Minimalist art movements in the late 1960s and early 1970s in the United States. It is also sometimes labeled as Super-Realism, New Realism, Sharp Focus Realism, or Hyper-Realism.

The Photorealist genre is predominately made up of painters. The word Photorealism was coined by Louis K. Meisel in 1968 and appeared in print for the first time in 1970 in a Whitney Museum catalogue for the show "Twenty-two Realists." 

Chuck Close photorealist painting "The Dalai Lama" is so lifelike it looks like a photgraph instead of a Chuck Close paintingLouis K. Meisel, two years later, developed a five-point definition at the request of Stuart M. Speiser, who had commissioned a large collection of works by the Photorealists, which later developed into a traveling show known as "Photo-Realism 1973: The Stuart M. Speiser Collection," which was donated to the Smithsonian in 1978 and is shown in several of its museums as well as traveling under the auspices of SITE.

The definition was as follows:
1. The Photo-Realist uses the camera and photograph to gather information.
2. The Photo-Realist uses a mechanical or semi-mechanical means to transfer the information to the canvas.
3. The Photo-Realist must have the technical ability to make the finished work appear photographic.
4. The artist must have exhibited work as a Photo-Realist by 1972 to be considered one of the central Photo-Realists.
5. The artist must have devoted at least five years to the development and exhibition of Photo-Realist work.

Photorealist painting cannot exist without the photograph. In Photorealism, change and movement must be frozen in time which must then be accurately represented by the artist. Photo realist's gather their imagery and information with the camera and photograph. Once the photograph is developed, the artist will systematically transfer the image from the photographic slide onto canvases.

This is done by either projecting the slide or grid techniques. The resulting images are often direct copies of the original photograph but are usually larger than the original photograph or slide. This results in the photorealist style being tight and precise, often with an emphasis on imagery that requires a high level of technical prowess.
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