History of Hyperrealism

Trans-Atlantic Beginnings

Photorealist artists had made a name for themselves in America by replicating whole images from photographs by the late 1960s. In the next decade, Hyperrealism was brought to life as European artists found ways to amplify elements of original still life and photographed scenes to draw focus to a central subject. Doing so enabled hyperrealists to appeal to human emotion, and to tell stories of their choice with otherwise generic images. 

What’s in a name?

The term, ‘Hyperrealism’ itself comes from the name of a 1973 exhibition and catalogue called Hyperréalisme by Isy Brachot. The Belgian artist created the title to mean Photorealism, thus his exhibit included photorealist works by named like Chuck Close and Charles Bell. As the movement expanded, it adopted the essence of Jean Baudrillard’s philosophy, The Hyper-realism of Simulation (1976).

Baudrillard conceptualized Hyperrealism as ‘the simulation of something which never existed’. In a way, his philosophy can apply to the creation of emotion as much as it refers to the creation of a somewhat new image. Simply speaking, through altering the intensity of an image, hyperrealists can create emotions in their viewers that would not have been inspired by original, real-life scenes.

Hyperrealism Today

Since the 70s, hyperrealist illusions have seen expansion in both technique and meaning. They can now be created through digital illustrations and by altering images transferred onto canvases or molds, as well as through the more traditional methods of drawing, painting and sculpture. 

US-based Lee Price embodies internal human struggles in her self-portraits. From an aerial view, she paints herself by large amounts of food in unconventional locations to implore spectators to consider the compulsive behaviors of humans and the possibly harmful ways in which we seek emotional comfort. 

German artist Mike Dargas, explores rudimentary, instinctive human interaction by painting his subjects consumed with intense emotion. Their appearances or actions within Dargas’ paintings either illicit an empathetic, or a reactive emotional response in viewers. 

In USEUM’s own gallery, you can find examples of how hyperrealism can also deliver messages by centering on objects humans create or come across in nature. (David De Biasio, Yampier Sardina Esperon)

Text by Sydney Amoakoh