Photorealism

Surveying the work of artists who have favoured the hyperrealist style of painting over the past 50 years.

Photorealism first emerged in the US in the 1960s through painters such as Charles Bell, Audrey Flack, Don Eddy, Chuck Close and John Salt.

Using photography as source material, the associated artists were concerned with painting astonishingly realistic depictions of everyday objects and scenes representative of American life.

Consumer goods, cars, motorcycles, diners and cityscapes were among popular subject matter, which were painstakingly reproduced to a much larger scale in oil and acrylic.

Intended as a means of objective documentation, photorealists distanced themselves from other more subjective art movements of the time, such as abstract expressionism, Pop Art and minimal art.

In fact, when the movement was first exposed to European audiences in 1972, the radical new ways it suggested artists might relate the world was highly controversial.

In the 1980s and 90s, photorealism experienced a second wave of popularity, but this time taking precedence on an international – rather than solely American – scale.

European artists took a particular interest; Anthony Brunelli, Bertrand Meniel, Robert Gniewek and Gus Heinze were just some its most prominent champions, shown here alongside the work of their predecessors from the 60s.

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A third element of the exhibition focuses on how the advent of digital photography has prompted a new generation of artists adopt a photorealist style. Raphaella Spence is one contemporary proponent, capturing cities around the world from a helicopter with a 66-megapixel camera, then transferring images to canvas pixel by pixel.

Peter Maier also aligns himself with the photorealist style. Having worked for several years as a designer in the car industry, his work involves spraying special automobile paint onto high-tech aluminium in as many as twenty five layers. The resulting images take on such a three-dimensional character they are deceptively real in appearance.


Venue details

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery Chamberlain Square, Birmingham West Midlands B3 3DH 0121 303 1966 www.bmag.org.uk

Entry details

Free with National Art Pass (standard entry £6.50)

Mon – Thu and Sat, 10am – 5pm
Fri, 10.30am – 5pm
Sun, 12.30pm – 5pm

Closed 25 – 26 Dec, 1 Jan

Book online via the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery website

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