The History of Realistic and Hyperrealistic Art

Hyperrealism is a relatively new form of art. It describes artwork that looks incredibly lifelike and is often mistaken for the real thing. At a distance, it’s easy to confuse a hyperrealistic painting or sculpture for an actual photograph or object. This is quite deliberate. Artists create an illusion of reality by using special techniques to create their artwork. As a genre, Hyperrealism is distinct from Photorealism and Realism, although it evolved from them. To understand the history of the hyperrealistic art movement, it’s worth taking a look at the history of its precursors.

Realism and Photorealism

Realism was born in the mid-19th century in post-revolutionary France. Until then, the art world was dominated by styles like Romanticism and Late Baroque, which were all about idealistic portrayals of the world. Their subjects were often borrowed from myth and theology and were showcased in imaginary, dramatic settings. It was akin to artistic escapism.

Realism artists rejected these notions and sought to create art that was grounded in reality. Painters like Gustave Courbet and Jean-Francois Millet exemplified this style. They painted scenes that depicted working-class themes and common folk. It was authentic art that showed the world for what it was, without dressing it up or avoiding unpleasantness.

Photorealism emerged in the late 1960s in the U.S. It built on the Realism movement and the popularity of photography. Photorealists would take a photo and attempt to reproduce it exactly with paint on canvas. Their subjects were often pop-culture objects and urban American settings. Richard Estes and Chuck Close were some of the first Photorealist artists and indeed went on to pioneer Hyperrealism artwork later on.

Evolution of Hyperrealistic Art

Unlike Photorealist artists, Hyperrealists don’t seek to copy their subjects exactly. Rather, they use their photographs only as a reference point and go on to add elements and themes that appeal to them. Broadly speaking, Photorealists dispassionately and accurately reproduce what they see. Hyperrealists deliberately infuse their creations with emotion and narrative to evoke greater meaning. By adding context and complexity, they hope to make their artwork come across as natural and indistinguishable from the reference material.

Hyperrealistic art first began to gain a following in the 1970s. The movement was recognized internationally when it participated in the 1972 edition of documenta, the Modern and Contemporary Art exhibition in Kassel, Germany. The term ‘Hyperrealism’ was coined a year later by Isy Brachot, a Belgian art dealer. In 1973, he hosted an exhibition which featured the work of several prominent American Photorealists. He called it L’hyperréalisme.

However, despite its roots, it wasn’t until the early 2000s that Hyperrealism evolved into the independent art form it is today. Modern Hyperrealism combines traditional artistry with newfound techniques by leveraging advances in technology.

Hyperrealism Artwork: Tools and Techniques

By definition, hyperrealistic art imitates reality — not necessarily in the details of what the actual object looks like, but rather in its ability to make the viewer believe it’s a real object or photograph. For instance, if the reference photograph shows a person with an impassive expression, the artist may choose to add a grin or a wink to the painting. However, the objective is to make you believe they’re both real photographs.

This requires a great deal of technical prowess and dedication to achieve. It also creates new opportunities for experimentation and artistic application. Hyperrealistic art can incorporate photographic limitations like perspective, depth of focus, and range of focus. Artists even go so far as to accentuate photographic anomalies, such as fractalization, in their artwork in order to emphasize its digital origins.

In this sense, the subject of Hyperrealism artwork isn’t just the image in the photograph, but the photograph itself. It’s tendencies like these that define Hyperrealism as a distinct and mature genre.

Hyperrealist artists employ the same art tools that have been in use for centuries, including paint, ink, charcoal, graphite, clay, marble, and so on. However, they make some allowances for mechanically transferring the images to the canvas or mold to simulate reality. Aids like grayscale underpainting, grid tools, and photographic slide projections onto canvas are common. Hyperrealistic art sculptors will often apply polyesters directly onto the human body or mold for greater fidelity.

Modern technology has its part to play too. Digital art, created with the help of special software and gear, is a popular way to create hyperrealist sketches and paintings. Working digitally, the artist can incorporate effects and elements into the art that would be impossible to capture with photography.

Modern Exponents of Hyperrealistic Art

Hyperrealism artwork can have a variety of subject matters, ranging from portraits to still lifes, landscapes, figurative art, and more. Each artist will often develop a niche that intrigues them. Marcus Ashley Gallery hosts a wide selection of artwork from modern masters of Realism and Hyperrealism.

Eric Christensen

Eric Christensen is a watercolor Hyperrealist. In fact, he’s the only known artist able to produce hyperrealistic art through standard transparent watercolors. His muse is the California wine country. He creates incredibly vibrant and lifelike landscapes and still lifes around this theme. He does this using a patented watercolor technique that allows him to transcend the look and feel of a high-definition photograph.

Many of his works are based on real locations. He spends a lot of time extensively photographing his subjects before he gets down to recreating them in paint. Each painting takes months to complete. Christensen releases only four or five originals every year.

Shades of Summer hyperrealistic art by Eric Christensen
Shades of Summer by Eric Christensen

John-Mark Gleadow

John-Mark Gleadow’s paintings look like something straight out of a bibliophile’s Instagram. His paintings typically show a series of books stacked together on a shelf. You’re drawn in by the book titles in what you think is a photo, until you spot something off about it. You realize that while the image appears to be a photograph in every sense, it couldn’t possibly be one.

Gleadow’s hyperrealistic art is created using oil on canvas. He prefers oils because of their richness and permanence. Gleadow enjoyed success as an artist quite early in life and his work is well recognized worldwide. His influences include Salvador Dali, Vermeer, and Rene Magritte.

Bibliotheque III Hyperrealism artwork by John-Mark-Gleadow
Bibliotheque III by John-Mark Gleadow

Alexander Volkov

Alexander Volkov’s still-life and landscape paintings are some of the most captivating images of rural America you’re likely to come across. His realistic and hyperrealistic art is loved internationally for the beautiful interplay of light that characterizes each piece. He skilfully uses lighting to create mood and infuse narrative into his artwork. A Volkov original tends to draw you in and make you lose track of time as you’re appreciating it.

Volkov is self-taught, but only in the conventional sense. He believes that there is learning and inspiration all around you if you’re willing to pay attention to it. Some of his early influences include Vermeer, Rembrandt, and William Turner. He has recently forayed into the world of sculpture as well.

Aspen Sunset by Alexander Volkov
Aspen Sunset by Alexander Volkov

Explore Hyperrealistic Art at Marcus Ashley Gallery

If you’re fascinated by this art style, learn more about it at Marcus Ashley Gallery. Our expert art consultants will be delighted to introduce you to some modern Hyperrealism artwork maestros and give you an insight into their process.

Explore all the art services our gallery offers, including custom framing, home previews, and affordable financing. Get fully insured international shipments of your hyperrealistic art and free shipping in the continental U.S.

The History and Process of Lithograph Art

Lithography is a medium that has dominated printmaking since the 18th century, but its defining principle is rather simple: oil repels water. By inscribing an oil-repellent image onto a flat, porous stone, one can use the stone to create thousands of near-identical prints and spread their words and images far and wide.

But what is lithography in art? Lithography has applications in advertising, wallpaper production, computer printing, and even nanotechnology, but it is also an intricate art medium if you have the patience for it. 

Discover how lithograph art works and heighten your appreciation for the craft at Marcus Ashley Gallery.

The Origins of Lithograph Art

The first mention of the word lithography comes from Germany in 1796, when author and actor Alois Senefelder wished for an inexpensive method of printing his theater materials. Lithography comes from the Ancient Greek lithos, ‘stone’, and graphein, ‘to write’. German limestone, known for its hardness, porous qualities, and fine grain, was the first stone used to create the smooth surface required for a perfect print.

Senefelder used pencils made of fat or resin, then treated it with a special chemical process that could be washed and reused a great number of times without reducing the quality of the drawing, unlike the cumbersome woodblock printing process that was customary back then. 

Essentially, lithography art is the process of creating an image that ink can adhere to in order to make a large number of near-identical prints. Lithography was an early printmaking method devised for a simple purpose that has had a monumental impact that persists to this day.

How Does Lithography Work?

The process of how lithography works can vary widely from artist to artist, but typically, the process of creating a lithograph goes as follows:

  • An artist draws the design onto flat stone (usually limestone) using oil-based ink.
  • The completed design is then processed, or etched, using layers of talc and rosin.
  • Acid and/or gum arabic mixed with acid is brushed onto the stone to create a chemical reaction, fixing the oil drawing into the stone.
  • A solvent removes the drawing, and a material is applied that etches the stone into place. 

Modern lithography can often skip some of this process, utilizing polymer coatings and metal or plastic plates to achieve a similar result. Additionally, a derivative method called offset lithography uses sheets of rubber and the same concept of oil and water in order to print large amounts of paper, and it has persisted as the most popular printing method since the 1960s. Photolithography also plays a part in the mass production of electronics and other technology.

What Is Lithography in Art?

Lithography is a highly technical form of creating prints, but it doesn’t just have technical uses. After overcoming technical difficulties in the medium’s initial stages, inventors were able to develop a way of adding artwork to paper and newspaper prints, allowing for one of the world’s first simple mass production of artists’ works. 

Soon, lithography art could also be produced in color. An artist creates a different stone for each additional color and a separate layer of ink would be applied to the paper for each stone. The artist must take great care to align the etchings perfectly so that the colors do not overlap.

Artists began to use lithography about a century after it became a popular printmaking method, and in the mid-1800s, it became a trend amongst popular artists like Delacroix, Géricault, and Goya. 

Lithography allowed artists to achieve renown and recognizability like never before. For the first time, the masses could see masterful, gorgeous works of art in books or newspapers, making art much more accessible to the average person and different social classes.

Lithography fell out of favor as an art medium for a while, but it was revived when a new generation of famous artists including Picasso, Matisse, and Miró were encouraged to pursue it. New and easier methods were refined in this time, which made lithography popular for wallpaper, printing, and of course, art.

Michael Parkes: A Famous Contemporary Lithograph Artist

Michael Parkes has reached a near-legendary status in the art world for his mastery of stone lithograph art. He has spent decades learning this difficult technique, and an understanding of what is involved in his artwork’s creation makes his result even more impressive.

His meticulous art style lends well to the incredibly precise and detailed technique required for lithography, and he can create fantastical, intricate scenes with the same refined quality as his paintings. His lithographs are hardly sought after, and Marcus Ashley Gallery is fortunate to offer many pieces from his collection on our online gallery, which you can peruse at your leisure.

Discover Masterful Lithography Art at Marcus Ashley Gallery

If you have any questions about purchasing limited edition print artwork for your collection, what lithography art is, or other fine mediums on display in our collection, one of our experienced art consultants would be happy to help you. Contact us anytime. Browse our gallery online or visit our vast gallery in person at South Lake Tahoe. 

Artist Process Series: Malcolm Tibbetts & Woodturning Art

Some dedicated masters have the talent and skill to breathe flowing, dynamic life into a material as harsh and rough as raw wood. This is known as woodturning art — an art technique which shapes wood into curved, irregular shapes.

At first glance, the work of Malcolm Tibbets and other woodturning artists seems like it couldn’t possibly be made out of wood. To further heighten your appreciation for the time and skill that goes into this craft, we want to explain what woodturning is as part of our ongoing artist process blog series. Learn more about this remarkable craft and how it’s made at Marcus Ashley Gallery.

What is Woodturning?

In its most basic form, the art of woodturning involves placing raw wood material on a woodturning machine or lathe, and then turning it evenly to carve and shape it in a circular motion.

You likely have already seen plenty of woodturning art without realizing it. Most wooden bed posts, doorknobs, spindles on railings, and similar round wooden carvings are made using woodturning. Like woodworking in general, woodturning has been around for thousands of years, and some of the same techniques used by our ancestors are still used today — albeit with much more advanced tools and technology.

Carving wood into a round shape takes an impressive amount of skill, patience, and practice. Woodturners need highly specific tools, including a high-quality lathe, to produce the best effect. As an art form, woodturning has a steep learning curve and requires a remarkable amount of technical skill.

It takes a very long time and a lot of dedication for woodturners to start creating high-quality products, and it takes even more time to feel relaxed and comfortable around the lathe and start experimenting with artists’ individual styles. For those who have the diligence and persistence to hone these unique skills, woodturning art can be incredibly rewarding.

Taking Woodturning Further: Segmented Woodturning Artists

As if classic woodturning wasn’t intricate and beautiful enough, some dedicated artists take woodturning much further.

Segmented woodturning involves turning a wooden piece that consists of multiple, sometimes hundreds, of glued-together pieces. This allows the artist to create turned art with endless color variation and patterns that enhance the curved shape of the piece.

Basic woodturning already has its challenges, and segmented woodturning art multiplies them tenfold. For many oddly shaped sculptures, the artist must design and build their own jig to hold the piece into place for carving. The segments must be meticulously adhered to one another for the shape to hold and stay in place, and artists often have to turn to some crafty innovation in order to achieve their desired result.

While segmented woodturning has an enhanced difficulty, it has equally enhanced rewards. A skilled segmented woodturner can produce such gorgeous patterned creations that must be seen to be believed.

Colorful segmented woodturning art sculpture entitled 28 Flavors by Malcolm Tibbetts.

The Unique Woodturning Art of Malcolm Tibbetts

Malcolm Tibbetts is one of the most renowned and respected segmented woodturning artists in the country today. Tibbetts grew up woodworking in his grandfather’s workshop, and he spent his entire life developing his skills. He nurtured a furniture-building hobby that saw his entire home filled with handcrafted furniture.

This hobby turned into an art form after he was fortunate enough to acquire a workshop of tools. After that, he started experimenting with segmented woodworking, and his hobby became a passion. Even with his lifetime of experience in working with wood, segmented woodturning art was a brand new adventure.

Tibbetts uses remarkable imagination and ingenuity to develop his complex structures. His mastery over the craft allows him to create wood sculptures that resemble spiraling knots, stellated dodecahedrons, and Mobius strips. His sculptures are so precise and awe-striking that it’s hard to believe they were created by a man and not a machine.

As a master woodturner, Tibbetts has also dedicated part of his career to instructing future woodturners by creating several instructional videos and participating in educational initiatives and symposiums. His efforts ensure that this rare and intricate artwork will be passed onto future generations. We are honored to have him as part of our local South Lake Tahoe artist community, where he lives full time.

Experience Woodturning Art at Marcus Ashley Gallery

Located in beautiful South Lake Tahoe, Marcus Ashley Gallery is a premier gallery displaying magnificent woodturning art. If you’d like to see what woodturning is in person, we would be happy to invite you in.

On our online gallery, we also have a number of woodturning art pieces available for you to purchase for your collection. Explore our selection and see what fantastic artwork inspires you.