Dr. Michael Delahoyde
Washington State University


A.k.a. Hyperrealism, Photo-Realism, Sharp-Focus Realism. Although Malcolm Morley (1931 - ) coined the term "Super-Realism" in 1965, this primarily U.S. style of painting and sculpture emerged in the 1970s. Artists here use photographs and body casts to attain an excruciating degree of realistic detail, resulting in "the characteristically cool, impersonal appearance, the preoccupation with common or industrial subject matter" (251), but also as a result the works paradoxically have an unreal quality. They thus bring up "issues of reality and artificiality" since the subject is twice removed: "an image of an image of life" (252).

Duane Hanson (1925-1996)

Tourists (1970)
A couple godawful Americans, unsettlingly dressed in real clothes.
Chuck Close (1940 - )
Mark (1978-79)
Close transferred a photo onto a grid and then painstakingly painted square by square with an airbrush and with minimal pigment. He tends to show such detail as pores and individual hairs of his subject (often his friends). He also retains the out-of-focus portions of photograph, as one can see with this piece.
Richard Estes (1936 - )
Holland Hotel (1984)
Estes' works usually lack humans. "Estes works from several photographs of a scene, combining aspects of them to create images that are of uniform sharp focus, seemingly more 'true' than a photograph. The hall-of-mirrors effect, created by the reflective glass, confounds the viewer's perception of space" (251).

Works Consulted

Dempsey, Amy. Art in the Modern Era: A Guide to Styles, Schools & Movements. NY: Harry N. Abrams Inc., Pub., 2002. 251-254.

20th-Century Index