Photorealism, also known as Super-Realism, New Realism, Sharp Focus Realism or Hyper-Realism, involves artists employing photographs to create their paintings. The style evolved out of Pop art as a sort of resistance to Abstract Expression and Minimalism in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Photorealist artists create works that are hyper illusionistic; compelling viewers to wonder and marvel at the work’s resemblance to reality. Employing a variety of techniques artists seek to generate paintings with a high level of representational verisimilitude. Photo realists use the camera or photographs to gather information. They may also rely on a mechanical device to transfer the image to the canvas, such as a projector, though the artist still requires a high level of skill to complete the work. Usually employing multiple photographs, artists involved with the style are interested in technical or pictorial challenges that might include unique surfaces or textures.
Pioneers of the movement include painters such as Richard Estes, Robert Bechtle and Tom Blackwell. One of the best-known photorealist painters, Chuck Close, works using a gridded photograph. A spinal artery collapse in 1988 left Close severely paralyzed. After the injury Close continued to paint, creating large portraits in low-resolution grid squares created by an assistant. From afar, these squares appear as a unified image, but in pixelated form.
Today there are a myriad of artists practicing photorealism including Jason de Graaf, Alison Van Pelt, Paul Cadden, David Kassan, Gregory Thielker, Diego Fazio, Bryan Drury and Ben Weiner . With the advancement of technology, contemporary photo realist artists are able to achieve paintings that exceed the capabilities of photography—capturing details the lens may not, or achieving an extraordinary level of precision. Often these photo realists are referred to as hyperrealists as the images resemble one, or an amalgamation of, high-resolution photographs. Inspiring and impressive, photo realists’ works tease the imagination and challenge perception.