What is Photorealism? Facts and Information

Photorealism is an art genre in which the artist attempts to recreate a photographed image in another medium. The work is incredibly detailed and faithful to the source image. As a result, works of photorealism often feel cool and emotionless, as the artist is trying to achieve a perfect copy of what was seen through the camera’s lens, free from emotion or artistic style.

The term Photorealism was first used by Louis L Meisel (an American gallery owner and art dealer) in 1969 to describe artists who gathered information with cameras and photographs and produced work that appeared photographic.

Who were the first Photorealists?

Know as the American Photorealists, the first Photorealist artists included Richard Estes, Audrey Flack, Ralph Goings, Chuck Close, Don Eddy, Richard McLean, John Salt, Tom Blackwell, Ron Kleeman, and Ben Schonzeit.

These artists worked independently of each other, and produced landscapes, portraits, and still lifes.

Many of the original Photorealists moved away from this genre of art as their careers progressed and evolved, but since 2000 and the rise in digital photography, new Photorealist artists have emerged.

Other artists who have produced works of Photorealism include Roberto Bernardi, Bryan Charnley, Raphaella Spense, Glennray Tutor, Tjalf Sparnaay, Robert Neffson, Clive Head, and William Nichols.

What is the difference between Hyperrealism and Photorealism?

Although the term Hyperrealism has been used to describe the work of Photorealist artists, the Hyperrealism movement is considered a distinct offshoot of the Photorealism genre.

Unlike Photorealist painters who focused on recreating mundane and everyday scenes in a precise, mechanical manner without emotion or narrative, the Hyperrealists, using digital photography as their starting point, try to create an illusion of reality that is not present in the original (creating a simulation of something which has never really existed). Hyperrealist works often focus on social, cultural, and political themes, and they often portray the subject with emotion and feeling.

Hyperrealist painters at once simulate and improve upon precise photographic images to produce optically convincing visual illusions of reality, often in a social or cultural context.

Petra Halkes

Some artists who have produced works of Hyperrealism include Dennis Peterson, Gottfried Heinwein, Ron Mueck, Andreas Orosz, Peter Maier, Mark Jenkins, Eric Dillman, and Jack Mendenhall.

Famous Photorealist Paintings

Some of the most well-known works of Photorealism include:

  • ’71 Buick by Robert Bechtle
  • Gum Ball No 10 by Charles Ball
  • Stanley II by Chuck Close
  • Tattoo by Robert Cottingham
  • The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum by Richard Estes
  • Medalion by Richard McLean
  • McDonald’s Pickup by Ralph Goings
  • A Season of Moment by Glennray Tutor
  • Shiva Blue by Audrey Flack