Oil Painting Blog

Blog about oil paintings by Robert Dawson

Inspiration - Photorealism and Hyperrealism

In thinking about what to paint, I find myself remembering art movements and artists I discovered in art school. When browsing art in bookstores and libraries, I tend to initially gravitate towards more realistic art. And one of the art movements I loved in art school is photorealism.

Since graduating, it seems that a new variety of that movement has sprung to life called hyperrealism, which essentially takes photorealism to a new level by making a work of art look more realistic than a photograph. This is achieved by adding richer shadows, brighter highlights, and more saturated colors. In the Wikipedia article on hyperrealism above, I found several artists whose work I particularly admire:

You might ask what these artists have in common or, conversely, what others in the list of hyperrealistic artists lack. The answer is that the artists whose work I admire the most tend to interpret hyperrealism more creatively or loosely. They don't seem as bound to the creed of their movement as others in the list.

What I like about photorealism and hyperrealism is that they showcase technical proficiency. You cannot deny that the artist can paint, draw, or sculpt what he or she sees. (That is, unless they employ technical assistance, like a projector or tracing paper, tricks that may be common and can certainly be justified with a simple, if "immoral," plea to the inherent goodness of technological progress.) You look at their work and instinctively think, "This artist has talent."

However, what I dislike, and more so in the case of photorealism, is that their work typically looks exactly like a photograph. But, so what? The question isn't, "Can you make a painting look like a photograph?" but, rather, "Why should you?" I applaud technical ability, that seemingly basic ability to draw what you see, but such fidelity, while a fundamental of visual art, does not define or encapulate it. Art is more than drawing. Art is also about creativity and ideas.

So, while I deeply admire photorealism and hyperrealism, I find that they lack creativity and, aside from the call to appreciate beauty in the everyday, fail to communicate compelling ideas.

Yet, we can all certainly agree that photorealistic and hyperrealistic art can be visually stunning. With that in mind, here is another gallery of hyperrealistic artists, many of which do offer visually stunning works of art.