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10 Photorealist Artists you need to know

Doug Bloodworth

He organises comics, guns, sweets, Starbucks cups and other consumer items into arrangements that are then photographed from exciting angles. This creates dynamic artworks that make you look at familiar objects in unfamiliar ways. His other exceptional talent lies in his ability to paint surfaces and textures. A dedicated attention to detail and the utmost faithfulness to the original colours of each object provide every painting with an uncanny level of realism.

Cheetos Hulk

Robert Bechtle

Born, raised and creating his work in San Francisco, his level of attention to detail and skill are astonishing. Each surface, texture and use of light and colour are expertly rendered to look as similar as possible to each original photograph. Creative and unique, Bechtle’s compositions tie his Pontiacs, suburban houses and streets together in hazy, atmospheric scenes of the Bay area.

photo credit: Pacifica via photopin (license)
photo credit: Pacifica via photopin (license)

George Shaw

A gritty English painter, his style of photorealism captures housing estates, woods and ordinary scenes from his hometown of Coventry. Fond of English Mod and Punk music, he manages to capture a distinctly English feel within his work. Nominated for the Turner Prize, his lo-fi and bleak images have a unique quality that revels in this obsession with the mundane and everyday. He produces his artworks in Humbrol enamel paints, more commonly used to paint airfix model planes. This further adds to the low culture sensibilities and ethics that can be found in both the personality of the Artist and his work.

George Shaw - Scenes from the passion
George Shaw – Scenes from the passion

Richard Estes

Reflection, architecture and sophisticated colour palettes are the key elements of Estes’ artworks. He lives and paints in both New York and Spain, and the reflective lights and surfaces that he uses create expansive canvases with a strong and realistic three-dimensional feel. Cool blues and sharply defined shadows add to the geometric feel of each work. He almost creates another type of architecture using these different aspects and structures within the paintings. His artworks of sections of cars earned him wide acclaim. Looking in great detail at cropped bonnets, headlights and bumpers, he created a series of lifelike and sensual paintings. The elongated and rounded shapes divide the paintings and reflect the surroundings. Buildings, coastlines and cities are morphed into new images as Estes transforms them in his reflections.

‘The Plaza’ (1991), by Richard Estes. Photo courtesy of Louis K. Meisel Gallery
‘The Plaza’ (1991), by Richard Estes. Photo courtesy of Louis K. Meisel Gallery

Robert Cottingham

The Artist’s paintings capture the distinctive qualities and idiosyncrasies of Americana and its objects. He uses exceptionally fine brushwork in order to achieve a smooth, photographic effect. Odd angles, often looking upwards at signs, or across reflective surfaces, make us feel involved and an active part of each artwork. Bold blocks of colour and a close interest in typography characterize Cottingham’s work.

Robert Cottingham's "Hot," on view at the Wichita Art Museum
Robert Cottingham’s “Hot,” on view at the Wichita Art Museum

Michael Fitts

The artworks of Michael Fitts place objects such as skulls, sweets machines and popcorn on edgy, worn out metal and wood backgrounds. His style is a unique take on the aesthetics and style of Americana. Smooth, refined, and expertly painted compositions showcase his powerful ability to turn the ordinary objects that surround us everyday into extraordinary and fascinating items of wonder. He creates magnificent effects in his work by combining contrasting materials and textures. For example, the harsh, rusted and scratched surfaces of a background will be set against the smooth, sugary gleam of plastic packaging or an assortment of sweets. This makes each texture reflect the other, and creates intrigue within the work.

Squirt Gun

Raphaella Spence

A British Artist from London, Spence is renowned for her cityscapes of Venice and aerial views of other famous urban sprawls around the world. She has a great talent for capturing atmosphere and detail, and although her artworks are painted from photographic stills, they radiate a strong sense of movement and life. The architecture of these places is used to frame strong compositions and incredibly realistic skies, seas and rivers. Light and its effects on buildings and other surfaces is a vital part of her work. She has spent years photographing sunsets and sunrises, watching and studying their light and colours.

Photo provided by Mpress
Photo provided by Mpress

Chuck Close

Highly respected by fellow artists, critics and audiences alike, Close developed a unique and incredibly lifelike painting style. This American Artist broke his huge portraits down into carefully organised grids and used abstract marks to fill each square. Like pixels in photographs, these parts combine to create impressive and unforgettable images of people. He suffers from Prosopagnosia, a condition that makes it difficult for him to identify faces, and he claims that painting portraits helps him to combat this affliction.

photo credit: Close to Chuck Close via photopin (license)
photo credit: Close to Chuck Close via photopin (license)

Duane Hanson

Photorealism is normally connected with painting and drawing, but there are artists who managed to incorporate some of its principles into Sculpture. Duane Hanson is one such example that’s uses photograph as an aid to create hyper realistic three-dimensional artworks.
His life size casts of people are formed from resin, fibreglass and bronze. In exhibitions, fat tourists, cleaners and doctors stand around as if they were part of the gallery crowd, and are so realistic that are two are often mistaken! He achieves a sometimes funny, occasionally tragic and always interesting sense of humanity in each character. They are lifelike enough for us to start second guessing their names, narratives and personalities. Hanson strictly adheres to an accurate sense of scale that only furthers their uncanny resemblance to real life individuals.

photo credit: Søndag via photopin (license)
photo credit: Søndag via photopin (license)

Ron Muek

This Australian sculptor also worked with figures of the human body, using many core photorealist principles. Where he differs from Hanson is that Muek drastically alters the scale of his sculptures in order to create strong psychological effects when we experience them in a Gallery. Massive heads adorn the walls, giant sleeping women rest in beds that are 20 feet long and glum, pasty angels sit on high stools. The attention to detail and technical expertise is second to none. His huge, and frighteningly realistic sculpture of a baby even has each hair on its head individually planted by workers into handmade hair follicles!


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