Richard Estes

b. 1932

Richard Estes (b.1932, Kewanee, IL) is considered one of the founding Photorealists and perhaps its most well-known proponent. He is known for his slightly uncanny paintings of urban landscapes—usually of New York, though he also painted images of Venice, Florence, Barcelona, Cordova, and Hiroshima. Estes received a BFA in 1956 from the Art Institute of Chicago, where he examined the works of realist painters such as Edgar Degas, Edward Hopper and Thomas Eakins. After graduation, he lived and worked intermittently in New York as a freelance graphic designer for various publishing and advertising agencies, painting in his spare time. Estes moved back to Chicago briefly and, by 1959, had gained enough financial stability to return to New York permanently. He began photographing the city, using these images as departure points for his paintings and in 1966, he finally left his job in advertising and committed to painting full-time.

Estes’ paintings of cityscapes, which often feature reflective surfaces, are masterfully created by combining several photographs to achieve a sharp focus throughout the canvas. They extend beyond the mere translation of a picture, transforming the light and forms into a painting of exaggerated focus and luminosity. These paintings draw closer attention to previously unseen or overlooked aspects of the urban environment, encouraging viewers to interrogate the relationship between reality and vision. 

Richard Estes’ work has been acquired by the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, among others. Important institutional exhibitions include Harald Szeemann’s documenta 5, Questioning Reality – Pictorial Worlds Today, Kassel; Photo-Realism, Serpentine Gallery, London (1973); American Dream, National Museum in Krakow, Poland (2009); Picturing America: Photorealism in the 1970s, Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin (2009); Photorealism: 50 Years of Hyperrealistic Painting (2013-2017) which started in Kunsthalle Tübingen, Germany before touring to 10 locations including Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid; Hyperrealismo 1967-2013, Bilbao Fine Arts Museum, Spain (2015); HyperAmerica: Landscape - Image - Reality, Kunsthaus Graz, Austria (2015); Richard Estes: Voyages, Newport Street Gallery, London (2021) and Chrome Dreams and Infinite Reflections: American Photorealism, Reynolda House Museum of American Art, NY (2022).

Richard Estes lives and works between New York and Maine.

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