We are immersed in Photorealism these days with the opening of our next exhibition Still Life: 1970’s Photorealism upon us (the show opens tomorrow 1/24) but this recent find in the rare book’s stacks reminded us of a complimentary conversation of the 1960’s and 70’s. The Museum of Modern Art’s “The Machine: As Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age” opened on November 27, 1968. You can see a scan of the original press release from the archives at MOMA. The exhibit was billed as “a collection of comments on technology” which explored the age of the “mechanical machine – which can most easily be defined as an imitation of our muscles.” Much like the catalog Billy produced in the same year, this exhibition catalog fits in the category of artist book. The book is bound in metal with an intensely modern image on the cover. Similar to the photorealist model of developing a painting from source photographs, the cover design by Anders Österlin was based on a photograph, in this case by Alicia Legg a curator at the Museum of Modern Art. The exhibit concerned itself with two machines in particular, the car and the camera and the human relationship to each. What do you make of the flyleaf below?
This guide represents resources located in the library and archives collections both in print and online. For basic definitions and dates see Oxford Art Online (see librarian for access). And don’t forget JSTOR for online access to journal articles. Free on the Currier campus.
Photorealism (or hyperrealism) originated as a style in the 1960’s. It was predominately a movement in the United States and was championed by artists such as Tom Blackwell, Chuck Close, Richard Estes, John Salt, Audrey Flack, Robert Cottingham and Duane Hanson. These loosely connected artists drew on the tradition of realism in art to inform their work.
Artists working in the photorealist style typically used photographs as the basis for large format works which were typically reminiscent of but not exact replicas of the photograph. Some artists, like Richard Estes, combined features from disparate photographs into one painting. Depictions of mass produced objects and suburban life dominate the movement which was intensely popular in the 1970’s.
Guggenheim Collection Online: Movements: Photorealism:
A concise definition of the movement. Includes high resolution images from the Guggenheim collection.
Realism, photorealism: October 5-November 23, 1980, Philbrook Art Center, Tulsa, Oklahoma : essays, catalogue, and selections.
Arthur, John. 1980.
Tulsa, Okla: The Center.
Photorealism: 50 years of hyperrealistic painting.
Letze, Otto, Simon Cane, Nathaniel McBride, and Otto Letze.
ND196 .P42 P58 2013
Exhibition catalog which provides a retrospective look at the movement. Delves into the controversial reception of the photorealists who were simultaneously embraced by the public and rejected by many critics. Discusses the implications of technology within the movement including improvements to camera’s and shutter speeds.
Photorealism at the millenium.
Meisel, Louis K., and Linda Chase. 2002.
New York: Abrams.
ND196.P42 M45 2002 OV
This large scale volume includes most, if not all, of the artists in Still Life: 1970’s photorealism including David Cone and John Baeder. Dozens of reproductions for each artist lend a comprehensive tone to this volume. Useful for beginners to experts.
Photorealism in the digital age.
Meisel, Louis K., and Elizabeth K. Harris. 2013.
New York: Harry N. Abrams Inc.
N6498.P48 M45 2013 OV
Exactitude: hyperrealist art today.
Taylor, John Russell, Maggie Bollaert, and Clive Head. 2009. London: Thames & Hudson.
N6494.P42 T39 2009 FOLIO
Dig a bit deeper and explore the complex relationship of realism, hyper-realism and exactitude in this folio size volume. Taylor considers generally the relationship of photograph to painting including a discussion of Victorian attempts to make photographs appear more like paintings.
Where does it fit?
Photorealism stems from both realism and pop art. Here are a few resources to help you understand the context of the movement.
Contemporary American realism since 1960
Goodyear, Frank Henry. 1981. . Boston: New York Graphic Society in association with the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
Published in 1981 this work covers just two decades of work. Includes Audrey Flack, Robert Cottingham, Chuck Close, Hilo Chen, Robert Bechtle and Martha Mayer Erlebacher.
Lucie-Smith, Edward. 1994.
New York: Abrams.
ND205.5.R42 L83 1994
Follow Realism from the 19th century through the 1980’s. Chapter on photorealism helps to explain the motivating forces of the movement including dependency on photographic imagery and incorporation of figurative images.
The American century: art & culture, 1950-2000
Phillips, Lisa, and Barbara Haskell. 1999.
New York: Whitney Museum of American Art in association with W.W. Norton.
N6512 .H355 1999
Orient yourself to the cultural climate of the latter half of the decade with Phillip’s second volume of her work, The American Century. Her chapter, “The Mediated World: Art and Photography” is particularly helpful.
Realism in 20th century painting
Prendeville, Brendan. 2000.
New York, N.Y.: Thames & Hudson.
ND196.R4 P74 2000
Learn about the predecessors to photorealism in Prendeville’s chronologically arranged overview. Chapter 2 explains the link between mid century artists such as Charles Sheeler and Edward Hopper and the photorealist generation.
A brush with the real: figurative painting today
Valli, Marc, and Margherita Dessanay. 2014.
ND196.4 .F54 V35 2014
For a look at the contemporary realist and figurative landscape this title with high quality reproductions provides a nice overview.