Tom Blackwell


One of the earliest Photorealist painters, Tom Blackwell (b.1938, Chicago, IL; d.2020, Poughkeepsie, NY), produced a significant body of work based on vehicles, particularly the motorcycle and aeroplanes, but also affordable family motor cars in urban settings. Born in Chicago, Blackwell began his career as an Abstract Expressionist before becoming enamoured with the Pop Art movement of the 1960s. It was with his Post-Pop paintings, which used imagery from photographic sources, that Blackwell garnered early success. By the early 1970s, Blackwell had abandoned his Pop sensibilities and started painting in the newly emerging Photorealist style, becoming one of its leading proponents. 

Blackwell’s large-format works of motorcycles are considered among the icons of Photorealist painting. In these pictures, he is primarily interested in the different materials from which the machines are built and the interrelation of their forms. Blackwell later turned his attention to elaborate shop window displays decorated with brightly coloured consumer goods or elegantly dressed mannequins; today, we read these as symbols of modern consumer society. In his window shop series, which echoes the work of Richard Estes, Blackwell masterfully captures the reflection of the street scenes as well as the outlines of historic buildings, creating a synthesis of old and new, reality and artifice.  

Blackwell is the recipient of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters purchase award and several state grants. He has had numerous solo exhibitions, including at the key galleries to pioneer early Photorealist painting, the Louis K. Meisel Gallery and OK Harris Gallery, both located in New York. His work has been included in important institutional exhibitions, such as Picturing America: Photorealism in the 1970s, Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin (2009) and Photorealism: 50 Years of Hyperrealistic Painting (2013-2017), which started in Kunsthalle Tübingen, Germany before touring to 10 locations including Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid; Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, UK; and Tampa Museum of Art, Florida.
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