Here's How Hyperrealistic Art Evolved Into One Of History's Most Impressive Movements

Here's How Hyperrealistic Art Evolved Into One Of History's Most Impressive Movements

By: Oliver G. Alvar -

These jaw-dropping works of art will surely make you look twice, thrice, or more until you realize they're not photographs. Read on to find out how Hyperrealism evolved into what it is today!

One of my favorite hobbies is to draw. I draw what I can, when I can, mostly using a pencil. Sketching is therapeutic for me, and I’m particularly drawn to reproducing reality as faithfully as possible, at least for the time being. I believe we must first hone our skills as much as possible, and only afterwards can we experiment in any way we want. As one of my teachers used to say: first master the technique, then—and not an instant sooner—you’ll be in a position to completely disregard it. And what better measure of our abilities than reality itself? 


As a result, I’m fascinated by the skill of others to faithfully depict the world, so it makes sense why someone like me would be very interested in seeing how Hyperrealism evolved into the impressive movement it is today. Nowadays, it’s simply a wonder to witness the amazingly detailed and sublimely realistic works of art that look more like photographs than paintings or drawings. And that’s the point of Hyperrealism, isn’t it? To surprise us with the use of highly developed techniques and confuse our eyes and brains into thinking we’re in fact looking at a picture.


What these images fail to reveal by themselves, however, is their origin story: the tale of how they came about through a complex historical process that spans centuries. Hyperrealism owes a debt to Photorealism and Realism before it, and it’s really worth taking a chronological look at all of them to get a sense of their development.


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(Magda Torres Gurza, La hora del té, "Tea Time," 2015)


Realism

Realism as an artistic movement was born in post-revolutionary France in the mid-19th century. Realist painters at the time rejected the prevailing current called Romanticism, which had dominated the art world, especially in painting and literature, since the late 18th century. 


To give you an idea, here's an example of a Romantic painting:

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(Philipp Otto Runge, The Morning, 1808)


Rather heavenly, isn't it? Well, here's a Realist one:

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(Jean-François Millet, The Gleaners, 1857)


In contrast to the Romanticists, the Realists wanted to move away from imagination, exaggerated drama, overly emotional features, and an idealized portrayal of the world. Instead, they were looking to depict far more grounded and, should I say it, realistic scenes and styles that were, to their eyes, much more suitable to represent reality as a whole by not avoiding its unpleasant aspects. In short, they wanted to paint the world as truthfully and authentically as they could, focusing on raw senses without dressing them up in any way.


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(Gustave Courbet, Bonjour, Monsieur Courbet, 1854)


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(Jules Bastien-Lepage, October, 1878)


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(Jules Breton, The End of the Working Day, 1886–87)


Photorealism

Photorealism, inspired by Realism and photography, arose as an attempt on the part of many artists to reproduce photographs as closely and as faithfully as possible, focusing on imitating every single detail to create the illusion of seeing the real thing. 


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(John Baeder, John's Diner with John's Chevelle, 2007)


Photorealists would take a picture and try to make an almost exact copy using paint. 


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(Richard Estes, Supreme Hardware, 1974)


While Realists focused on everyday scenes and subjects (mostly rural settings and the working class), Photorealists often reproduced inanimate pop-culture objects or urban settings.


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(Ralph Goings, Ralph's Diner, 1982)


Hyperrealism

Hyperrealism got its name in the early 70s after Isy Brachot, an art dealer from Belgium, held a major exhibition he called L’hyperréalisme, featuring the work of important American Photorealists. 


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(Sergey Piskunov, Wearing Mask, 2016)


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(Philip Weber, Bless 3 - Antonia, 2012)


In this way, Hyperrealism builds on the work of Photorealism, but it wasn’t until the 2000s that it evolved into the movement we know today, merging several technologies beyond photographies, such as digital mediums. 



Unlike Photorealists, who copy their photographic sources as literally and faithfully as possible, hyperrealist artists tend to merely use photographic material as an inspiration upon which they later experiment, often adding elements not contained in the original.


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(Art by Jesus Morón, @artmoron)


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(Art by Cleison Magalhães, @cleisonarts)


Hyperrealism includes digital paintings, pencil drawings, and sculptures.


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(Ron Mueck, Mask II, 2001)


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(Art by @drawings.by.dylan)


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(Art by Gennady Ovcharenko, @ovcharenkogg)


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(Art by Jesus Morón, @artmoron)


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(Art by @drawings.by.dylan)


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(Art by Gennady Ovcharenko, @ovcharenkogg)


The level of talent, dedication, practice, and skill it takes to successfully achieve the hyperrealistic effect on your work of art is staggering. I'm looking forward to seeing what artists come up with next! How about you—do you know any other examples of amazing hyperrealistic art? Share them on the comments below!


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