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An Introduction to Hyperrealism

Part Two of Magic, Fantasy and Hyperrealism in Art & Literature Trilogy

“One demonstration of the way photography became assimilated into the art world is the success of photorealist painting in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It is also called super-realism or hyper-realism and painters like Richard Estes, Denis Peterson, Audrey Flack, and Chuck Close often worked from photographic stills to create paintings that appeared to be photographs.” - Graham Thompson, associate professor at the University of Nottingham.

Richard Estes, Columbus Circle Looking North 2009, oil on canvas.

Hyperrealism is an art genre that resembles reality in an extraordinary context. The similarity is so conclusive that it earns the sub-titles of photorealism in painting and super realism in sculpture. The movement started in the 1970s, flourishing into a school of art and a new set of techniques to create photo realism that counter impressionism and abstract expressionism. It was regarded as an interdependent pop art genre for three decades until its academic recognition in the 2000s.

The School of Hyperrealism

In 1973, Galerie Isy Brachot, a Belgian art dealer, came up with the term hyperréalisme to define a new genre of art, inspired by the high resolution imagery of photo cameras. The title was used to introduce an exhibition in Brussels, showcasing the works of a handful of American artists including Ralph Goings, Chuck Close, and Richard McLean, along with European painters including Domenico Gnoli (Italy), Gerhard Richter (Germany), Konrad Klapheck (Germany). The term was instantly adapted for any painting that imitated reality as if it was a high resolution photograph.

In the 2000s, the understanding of the genre developed its own school, shedding light on aesthetic techniques and principles that create an illusion by enhancing reality and art works with photographic quality.

Denis Peterson is one of the first photorealists, known for perfecting a splinter art movement known as Figurative Expression and Post-Photorealism, off shooting from photorealism. The New Yorker artist had a focus on cultural icons with a unique touch; embedding alternative realities into contemporary life. Dust to Dust is one of the most revered art works from him, in a touching attempt to decipher the human condition in the modern world.

“In his work Dust to Dust, Peterson asserts a man of negligible social status who inhabits the lowest stratum of society is just as worthy of having his portrait painted as any titled individual or famous person and just as deserving of having his humanity recognized.” From Cave Painting to Street Art - 40,000 Years of Creativity, Rizzoli Publishing.