Photorealism 1960 – 1980

Style of painting, printmaking and sculpture that originated in the USA in the mid-1960s, involving the precise reproduction of a photograph in paint or the mimicking of real objects in sculpture In terms both of its imagery of mass-produced objects and suburban life and of the premise of replicating an existing artefact with no apparent comment, Photorealism emerged as an offshoot of POP ART Despite clear stylistic differences, it is also close to Minimalism in its cool, detached approach and to conceptual art in its concern with the work of art as a physical manifestation of an idea

Photorealism is a genre of art that encompasses painting, drawing and other graphic media, in which an artist studies a photograph and then attempts to reproduce the image as realistically as possible in another medium Although the term can be used broadly to describe artworks in many different media, it is also used to refer specifically to a group of paintings and painters of the American art movement that began in the late 1960s and early 1970s

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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 Photorealists use a photograph or several photographs to gather the information to create their paintings and it can be argued that the use of a camera and photographs is an acceptance of Modernism However, the admittance to the use of photographs in Photorealism was met with intense criticism when the movement began to gain momentum in the late 1960s, despite the fact that visual devices had been used since the fifteenth century to aid artists with their work

The invention of photography in the nineteenth century had three effects on art: portrait and scenic artists were deemed inferior to the photograph and many turned to photography as careers; within nineteenth- and twentieth-century art movements it is well documented that artists used the photograph as source material and as an aid—however, they went to great lengths to deny the fact fearing that their work would be misunderstood as imitations; and through the photograph’s invention artists were open to a great deal of new experimentation Thus, the culmination of the invention of the photograph was a break in art’s history towards the challenge facing the artist—since the earliest known cave drawings—trying to replicate the scenes they viewed

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 Photorealists gather their imagery and information with the camera and photograph Once the photograph is developed (usually onto a photographic slide) the artist will systematically transfer the image from the photographic slide onto canvases Usually this is done either by projecting the slide onto the canvas or by using traditional 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 and virtuosity to simulate, such as reflections in specular surfaces and the geometric rigor of man-made environs

The evolution of technology has brought forth photorealistic paintings that exceed what was thought possible with paintings; these newer paintings by the photorealists are sometimes referred to as “Hyperrealism” With new technology in cameras and digital equipment, artists are able to be far more precision-oriented