Photorealism, Describing an Art Movement

Photorealism in the context of describing an art movement, has nothing related to computer graphic rendering.

It is a class of art having the characteristic of making a painting from the use of a photograph. The term, ‘Photorealism’, is primarily applied to paintings from United States art movement that began in the late 1960s and early 1970s.


  1. In the late 1960s and early 1970s in United States, photorealists were much more influenced by the work of Pop artists and were reacting against Abstract Expressionism.
  2. Artists from this genre of paintings use a photograph or several photographs to create their work of art.
  3. The invention of photography in the 19th century had 3 effects on art:-
    • Many portrait and scenic artists acquired the skill of photography as career, because there were deemed inadequate in this discipline.
    • Conceptually, artists between 19th -20th century, used the photograph as source material and as an aid. Despite the fact of fearing that their work would be misunderstood as imitations.
    • It created new openings for artists to explore for more creativity through experimentation.
  4. Thereafter, photograph has became the main references for photorealists. Reproducing reality and abstraction was the focus of art world.
  5. Pop Art and Photorealism were both reactionary movements stemming from the ever increasing and overwhelming abundance of photographic media.
  6. It became such a massive phenomenon in mid 20th century, that it was threatening to lessen the value of imagery in art
  7. The difference of art movement for Photorealism and Pop Art:-
    • Photorealism were trying to reclaim and exalt the value of an image. Also sustaining the fact that reproducing paintings from photograph is not mere imitation.
    • Pop Art, usually for commercial usage, were mainly pointing out the absurdity of much of the imagery. Focusing on humor or leisure purposes.


  1. The word Photorealism was coined by Louis K. Meisel in 1968. Sometimes labeled as Super-Realism, New Realism, Sharp Focus Realism, or Hyper-Realism.
  2. Louis K. Meisel developed a five-point definition at the request of Stuart M. Speiser:-
    • The Photo-Realist uses the camera and photograph to gather information.
    • The Photo-Realist uses a mechanical or semimechanical means to transfer the information to the canvas.
    • The Photo-Realist must have the technical ability to make the finished work appear photographic.
    • The artist must have exhibited work as a Photo-Realist by 1972 to be considered one of the central Photo-Realists.
    • The artist must have devoted at least five years to the development and exhibition of Photo-Realist work


  1. Photorealist painting cannot exist without the photograph.
  2. Change and movement must be frozen in time which must then be accurately represented by the artist.
  3. Camera and photographs are the primary source to gather information, that aids the progression of photorealism art into another stage.
  4. Image of developed photographs will be directly transfer onto canvas precisely. Either by enlarging the image by its aspect ratio, or combining a few photographs to a canvas.
  5. Common means of such transfer is by projections or traditional grid techniques.
  6. This results in the photorealist style being tight and precise, often with an emphasis on imagery that requires a high level of technical prowess and virtuosity to simulate, such as reflections in specular surfaces and the geometric rigor of man-made environs

Above content is a summary of defining photorealism art movement. Some of the content are duplicated, concise  and mainly the purpose of personal blogging and learning. Original content may be found in Wikipedia, with title of article as “Photorealism”