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Photorealism. (Classroom Use).

THINGS TO LEARN

* After hundreds of years when artists painted and carved realistic artworks, an artistic revolution occurred about 100 years ago called "Modernism." Art changed to become abstract. Modernist art eventually became divided into different types. Most of these individual styles of Modernism have appeared as Clip & Save articles over the past year, the best known being "Cubism," "Expressionism" and "Constructivism."

* "Photorealism" was a reaction against the abstract art of Modernism. About 40 years ago, a number of young artists began to be known for their extremely realistic paintings and sculptures. Instead of their art being a product of personal emotions, these artists focused their attention on an outward-looking wonderment about the external world.

* Extreme realism interested Dutch artists during the 17th century in the scenes of daily life by Jan Vermeer and still-life paintings by Pieter Claesz. In 19th-century America, artists such as Winslow Homer and Thomas Eakins continued this fascination with realism. More recently this tradition of realism was followed by Andrew Wyeth and Robert Vickrey.

* Photorealism also goes under such names, as "New Realism," "Hyperrealism," "Superrealism" or "Sharp Focus." Whenever students see any of these names, they can expect to see similar kinds of artworks.

* Each Photorealist artist has a unique style, but all of them take great care to include every detail present in their subjects. In doing so, they reveal details most of us would normally miss and often may not really want to see. This is because people do not really see what is in front of them until they either make extraordinary efforts to be observant or study pictures painted by Photorealist artists.

* Photorealist art was often made by studying many different photographs of the same scene. Each snapshot provided slightly different visual information about a subject, because everything we see is constantly changing. But once a photograph was taken, it no longer changed. These artists did their best, also, to avoid letting personal feelings about a subject interfere with their art because that would have led to distortion. For this reason, their works tend to look unemotional.

In some ways, Photorealist artists are like investigative reporters, trying to reveal everything possible about their subjects. In fact, the extreme detail of some Photorealist art is so great that the results often seem unreal.

* Paintings by Photorealists are likely to be large and often show street scenes. On the other hand, Chuck Close chose to paint portraits that are so much larger than real life that they shock a viewer when seen for the first time. Sculptures are usually life-size and so accurate that museum visitors have been known to try talking with them.

* Popular subjects for Photorealist painters were city and suburban streets, railroad cars, new cars as well as old wrecks, diners and movie houses. Only rarely do any of them include people. In contrast, those who focused their attention on portraits were rarely interested in surrounding scenery.

* Some of the better-known Photorealist artists are Richard Estes, John Baeder, John Salt, Chuck Close, Audrey Flack, Philip Pearlstein, Ralph Goings, Duane Hanson and John De Andrea.

THINGS TO DO

* In order for students to develop a clear understanding of Photorealism, they need to become familiar with as many examples as possible. The first goal is to get to know what Photorealistic art looks like. While all these artists share similar ideas and their works have numbers of similarities, each artist's style as well as the materials used can be very different.

A second goal is to see enough Photorealistic art that students can identify the individual styles of the better-known artists. It is for that reason the names of some artists are listed above.

* If students search books on recent art and become familiar with Photorealism so they can identify it, they will be ready for the next step. This requires that they compare several of the works they have found. To do this they should describe the similarities and differences that exist among the artworks. They should also express their personal preferences about the artworks together with reasons for their preferences.

As long as students are willing to write or speak sensibly about a selection, it doesn't matter about their point of view. To this end, they should be protected when their criticisms and conclusions are not popular.

* One way of using photography in the way used by Photorealists is to take numbers of snapshots of a particular view. Immediately after taking these photographs, students should make a careful drawing of exactly the same view.

Later, when the photographs have been processed, students can use them to make the drawing more accurate--to correct shapes and add details. And, if the photographs are in color, they may also be used as color guides for painting.

* Another way of using photography to make very realistic pictures is to project a slide of a scene on a sheet of paper and then carefully draw in the picture. If students study the paintings of the 18th-century Italian artist, Canaletto, they can see how he used the "camera obscura" (like a pin-hole camera without any film) to help him. They may even be interested in building their own camera obscura.

* Richard Estes found abstraction in the precise study of realism and students might be interested in testing it for themselves. Photocopies of this or another of Estes' paintings could be distributed to a class and students asked to search out all the abstract shapes they could find in the picture. Felt markers might be used to mark out this abstract composition. Students could then display their findings and compare them.

BUILDING A PICTURE FILE WITH THIS CLIP & SAVE ART PRINT REPRODUCTION This painting by Richard Estes may be used both as an example of Photorealism and for various other art-teaching needs. Potentially useful picture-file categories include: "Photorealism"; "Photorealist Artists: Richard Estes"; "Reflections"; "Perspective"; "City Streets"; "Detailed Art"; and "Light and Shadow."

For ideas about collecting and retrieving pictures to help in teaching art and other subjects, readers are invited to write to: Guy Hubbard c/o Arts & Activities, 591 Camino de la Reina, Suite 200, San Diego, CA 92108; e-mail: hubbard@indiana.edu.
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Author:Hubbard, Guy
Publication:Arts & Activities
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2002
Words:1027
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