The Difference Between Photorealism and Hyperrealism
“Hyperrealism is a genre of painting (and sculpture) that resembles a high resolution photograph and is a fully-fledged school of art that evolved naturally from Pop Art, which led naturally to Photorealism.
Consequently, Hyperrealism is effectively an advancement of Photorealism. However, whereas Photorealists reproduced photographs so exactly that the human eye could not distinguish between the original photograph and the resultant painting, Hyperrealists took the techniques employed much further in that they developed ways of introducing narrative, charm and emotion into their paintings – which from a distance look like photographs but which when examined more closely are clearly nothing of the sort.
The term “Hyperrealism” was primarily applied to an independent art movement and art style in the United States and Europe that has developed since the early 2000s.
It evolved from the word Hyperealisme, which was first used by Isy Brachot in 1973 as a French word meaning Photorealism. It was the title of a major catalog and exhibition at his gallery in Brussels Belgium in that year. European artists and dealers have since used the word Hyperealisme to describe painters influenced by the Photorealists”.
The Encyclopaedia Britannica defines Hyperrealism as an “American art movement that began in the 1960s, taking photography as its inspiration. Photo-realist painters created highly illusionistic images that referred not to nature but to the reproduced image. Artists… attempted to reproduce what the camera could record. Several sculptors… were also associated with this movement. Like the painters, who relied on photographs, the sculptors cast from live models and thereby achieved a simulated reality”.
While the Encyclopaedia Britannica is satisfied with placing Hyperrealism in a semi-historical context and leaving it at that, Wikipedia goes further into defining the difference between Photorealism and Hyperrealism: “Hyperrealism”, it says, “is contrasted with the literal approach found in traditional photorealist paintings of the late 20th century. Hyperrealist painters and sculptors use photographic images as a reference source from which to create a more definitive and detailed rendering, one that unlike Photorealism, often is narrative and emotive in its depictions… The photorealistic style of painting was uniquely tight, precise, and sharply mechanical with an emphasis on mundane everyday imagery, as it was an evolvement from Pop Art.
Hyperrealism, on the other hand, although photographic in essence, can often entail a softer and much more complex focus on the subject depicted, presenting it as a living tangible object. These objects and scenes in Hyperrealism paintings and sculptures are meticulously detailed to create the illusion of a new reality not seen in the original photo. That is not to say that they are surreal, as the illusion is a convincing depiction of (simulated) reality.
Textures, surfaces, lighting effects and shadows are painted to appear clearer and more distinct than the reference photo or even the actual subject itself”.
Many artists, dealers, gallery and museum curators confuse the issue because there is no static definition of Hyperrealism. Consequently, photorealist artists are often described as hyperrealists – and vice versa. The true hyperrealist, however, is no mere copyist. The true hyperrealist recognizes that despite the extraordinary technical skills required in photorealism, (which are no less when creating hyperrealistic paintings, there is little point in merely reproducing a photograph as a painting; why not merely print the original photograph larger, he argues.
Instead, the hyperrealist interprets the reference photograph – or in many cases multiple reference photographs – and with the use of artistic licence, and specific and highly individualistic techniques of colouring and detailing, is able to add charm, emotion and ‘soul’ to his paintings, thus giving to his works a mystical, even magical quality that simply does not exist in photorealistic paintings. It is for this reason that hyperrealism is considered an advancement on photorealism.