Is Photorealism Art?

Kate Brinkworth

Or is it highly skilled copying?  

I’ve been wondering about this lately as I see a growing trend towards photo/hyper realistic art. The skill to draw or paint at such a level is phenomenal and inspiring but if you’re just recreating a photograph on canvas what is it that makes it artistic? Is it one’s skill in being able to reproduce realistic images in ones chosen medium or is there more to it? 

Chuck Close
Daryl Gortner
Phil Schirmer
Gottfried Helnwein

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Pen and ink artist inspired by Nature, Beauty, Spirit and Song.

9 thoughts on “Is Photorealism Art?”

  1. I’ve often wondered what makes it art, too, then I have to step back and remember that my mother was a portrait sculptor – doing almost exactly the same thing in 3D in clay (albeit not with colour). There are some artists who want to be as good as reality, and some who want to be as good as their imaginations. They’re both artists producing art – they enjoy creating it, many people enjoy looking at it.

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  2. I’m impressed by the skill of artists who can pull it off. As for is it ‘art’? Yes. Art is a skill. The Great Masters were master artisans who provided a service to wealthy patrons. They might have found creative expression and personal satisfaction in their vocation, but they were artisans as much as any carpenter or brick layer.

    After the invention of photography artists began exploring art as a means of self expression and abstract design so it seems to me that what we think of as ‘art’ today falls more into that creative category, but I like the old fashioned understanding of art as simply a skill. I’d also add that how ever close an artist gets to copying their photo source, there’s still some individual transference between the photo and the artist–like a signature. No two are going to be exactly alike.

    Sorry for the longwinded opinion! 🙂 I really like your blog by the way, and your art is beautiful!

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    1. Wonderful brief explanation how photography effected our cultural view of art. I like the idea of art as a skill and maybe with the growing trend of photorealism the skill aspect will be brought back into it to balance out the pure abstract and self expression aspects.

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  3. I would say yes, it is art. Just unoriginal when compared to pieces spawned from the imagination or that combine more than one existing image/subject, in order to create something entirely new.

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    1. So would it be safe to say if an artist did a photorealistic painting where they combined two or three existing images into one work of art, it would be considered original?

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      1. Precisely, spot on. There are convincing pieces and mentally stimulating ones. I’d rather look at the latter works of art, as they are more likely to carry a function/message or deeper meaning, but that being said, there is no reason why realism cannot be applied to both. If you look at portraiture versus fantasy art, they have completely different purposes, yet both can look very “realistic”.

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  4. I love photo realistic art. As you stated the artists who create them are hyper talented. That being said I like creating art which is representational. I find greater joy in changing the picture to be what I want it to represent. If I want a photo realistic picture I will take it with my camera and get it enlarged.

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    1. While I was reading up on photorealism the question “Why not just use a camera?” kept turning up in discussions. It would save time and energy which leads to wonder is photorealism really about challenging one’s skill where the highest level is being able to create something that is identical to a photograph.


      1. Good point. I believe it does take skill to create photo realistic pictures. For me it would lead to knowing the skills so I could use them to recreate realism into something which comes from the playful mind.

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