Regarded by many as the leader of the Photorealist Movement, Richard Estes’s works have forever changed the way people view the concept of photography. The American painter is such a master that he is known to be an artist who can easily fool anyone’s eyes – with Estes’s paintings one can’t tell if it’s a photograph or a painting or both in some cases. Hailed by many as a photo-realist and a hyper – realist Estes carved out a very different niche of art during a time where it mostly just consisted of canvases, sketching and collaging. Thanks to Estes and a few other artists, their works paved the way photography became an integral part of the art world. Today photography is taken seriously as an art thanks to artists like Estes whose incredible paintings often require a double take.
Born in 1932 in Kewanee, Illinois Richard Estes developed a keen interest in art during his teen years. By the age of 20 he had enrolled in the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where he keenly started studying the works of realist painters like Edward Hopper and Thomas Eakins. Estes moved to New York and worked as a graphic artist for journals and magazines whilst trying to survive in the ‘concrete jungle’ as he now refers it to be. No one foresaw that a lanky artist in his late twenties who often stood on Times Square and snapped away pictures with his camera from various different angles would go on to the change the face of the art world in the future. With Estes, the starting point for any of his works is always photography. The task involves going out and taking hundreds of photographs of any street corner, diner, bus stop, subway station or even hot dog stand from different angles. He then goes back and cuts the photographs he has taken and pastes them one on top of another often manipulating them. At times some of his works even feature 3 to 4 photographs on top of each other – one just doesn’t notice the way the icon of photorealism has managed to cleverly conceal them. Then the final straw is that he often paints on them or on a different setting altogether using his photographs as mock ups. Estes’s aim with his paintings is to stay as true to the photograph of the object as he can.
Like most artists, New York remains Richard Estes’s muse and it is very evident in some of his works. From his admirable painting of the Brooklyn Bridge to the bus driver driving down Times Square his love for New York is very apparent. Through his paintings he showcases a very softer and delicate side of New York not known to many people. With Estes his work in simply very clean and pure – just like any photograph taken of any moment or subject. It is a reflection of the reality of that moment when the click was taken. Estes never tampers with his photographs whilst translating them into paintings considering it a sin against the entire concept pf photo-realism. In any Estes painting there is a strong human touch associated alongside sheer precision and brilliance.