There are some realistic paintings that really make you question reality; however, they are not only making us question reality – they also prove how art can be powerful and fascinating. A remarkable level of artistic skill is needed to create a painting that looks like photography. And indeed, some realistic paintings are so realistic that you feel absorbed by their compositions - it can portraits, or anything else, but they really look like a still of video. But, what are exactly realistic paintings? It’s very important to make one crucial remark – realistic painting practice should not be confused with Realism, which was an artistic movement that began in France in the 1850s, that sought to portray real and typical contemporary people and situations with truth and accuracy, and not avoiding unpleasant or sordid aspects of life. In this article, we are not focusing on Realism, but on contemporary realistic paintings that move the boundaries of visual perception. Conceptually, there have been a lot of discussions about the use and position of “reality” in contemporary art. Of course, these discussions are the product of philosophical and theoretical debates that reject the notion of “reality in postmodern world”. Virtual reality, integral reality – those are only two terms that are being used to dismantle the “traditional concept of reality”. Is this article real in terms that you read it thanks to pixels and wireless Internet? By answering questions like this one, many artists began with the practice that would later be labeled as Hyperrealism, Photorealism, Realistic art and so on. And the majority of the works from our list of realistic paintings belongs to these movements. But, let us forget theory, and focus on aesthetics. In this article, you will only see some examples of the fascinating realistic painting practices.
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Terry Rodgers is an American figurative painter known for his large-scale canvases that focus on portraying contemporary society in all its glory. Rodgers is probably best-known for his iconography of muscled young men and slender young women; all more-or-less (un)dressed, adopting lascivious poses in a luxurious décor, ostentatious and baroque.
Featured Images: Terry Rodgers - The Calligraphy Disproportionate Advantage; Terry Rodgers – The Calligraphy Disproportionate Advantage, detail
Dan Witz is American painter, who also had a career as a street artist. He is interested in group figure paintings and what he calls, academic realist painting. His works depict mosh pits at punk shows, inspired by his experiences as a musician, and deal with the identity of human beings in modern societies. The painting process starts with digital photos, which are later edited in Photoshop and printed onto canvas as underpaintings. Then, Witz starts applying color with traditional glazing techniques.
Featured Images: Dan Witz - Byronesque, detail (courtesy of jonathanlevinegallery.com); Dan Witz - Agnostic Front, detail (courtesy of jonathanlevinegallery.com)
Gottfried Helnwein (born in 1948) is an Austrian-Irish visual artist. He has worked as a painter, draftsman, photographer, muralist, sculptor, installation and performance artist, using a wide variety of techniques and media. Helnwein studied at the University of Visual Art in Vienna (Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Wien). His early work consists mainly of hyper-realistic watercolors, depicting wounded and mistreated children, as well as performances – often with children – in public spaces.
Featured Images: Gottfried Helnwein - The murmur of the Innocents 18, detail (courtesy of helnwein.com); Gottfried Helnwein - The Murmur of the Innocents 14 (courtesy of helnwein.com)
Jonathan Wateridge is the British artist and one of the foremost figurative painters of his generation. His paintings investigate the concealed influence of the photograph and the film in our everyday lives. Educated at the Glasgow School of Art in the early 1990s where he studied painting and became interested in film, Jonathan Wateridge engaged with a realistic aesthetic in 2005. He had created a series of disaster paintings that illustrate plane crashes and shipwrecks in hyper-realistic settings.
Feature Image: Jonathan Wateridge - Couch, 2015-2016
Alex Roulette is American artist, born in 1986. His process is truly amazing, and this is part of the artist’s statement: I begin each new work by gathering a large collection of source material. I meticulously photograph environments and collect found images such as vintage postcards. In constructing the painting, I use combinations of these reference images, to fabricate an open-ended narrative with the emotion of a memory. Drawing collages of image fragments onto panels before painting them in oil. The resulting paintings are both realistic and subtly uncanny, recalling some idealized vacation and a deeply personal longing for past experiences.
Featured Images: Alex Roulette
Gregory Thielker uses painting and drawing to investigate the conception of site through observation and memory. His hyper-realistic work connects to specific places and calls into question the way recognition and narrative can often sway understanding and perception. He employs graphic materials, such as oil paint and graphite, which are often married with conceptual methods to bring the artist’s role into relief.
Featured Images: Gregory Thielker - Route 7, detail (courtesy of www.gregorythielker.com); Gregory Thielker - Disruptions 2, detail (courtesy of www.gregorythielker.com)
Jason de Graaf is an artist whose style is highly hyper-realistic. As the artist says: My paintings are about staging an alternate reality, the illusion of verisimilitude on the painted surface, filtered so that it expresses my unique vision. Though my paintings may appear photoreal my goal is not to reproduce or document faithfully what I see one hundred percent, but also to create the illusion of depth and sense of presence not found in photographs.
Featured Images: Jason de Graaf - Seven Chambers, 2010, acrlycil on canvas (courtesy of jacanagallery); Jason de Graaf - Fluid Mechanics, detail (courtesy of jasondegraaf.blogspot.com)
Teresa Elliott is an American artist from Texas who graduated from The University of Kansas with a BA in Fine Arts. Working for years as an illustrator, in 2005 she returned to her fine art roots, dedicating herself exclusively to her studio practice as an oil painter. She has been exhibiting widely across the States.
Featured Image: Teresa Elliott - America China Oil Painting Artists League
Eric Christensen began painting professionally in 1992. Since then, he has enjoyed amazing success and a growing reputation as a celebrated Wine Country Artist. He employs his ‘patented’ Christensen watercolor technique which allows him to create images of vibrant color that go beyond the look and depth of a high quality photograph. The style he uses is Hyper-Realism and Photorealism.
Featured Image: Eric Christensen - Fresh Pour, detail (courtesy of marcusashley.com)
Lee Price is an American contemporary figurative realist painter. She focuses on the subject of food with the solitary female figure in private and/or intimate setting – figures that are always lost in what might appear to be the bliss of consumption in highly unusual environments and portrayed from a unique aerial point of view.
Featured Images: Lee Price - (courtesy of neuegraphic.com). All Images used for illustrative purposes only.
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