About us
Artists Richard Estes
Richard Estes Photo

Richard Estes

American Painter

Movements and Styles: Photorealism, Contemporary Realism

Born: May 14, 1932 - Kewanee, Illinois

Richard Estes Timeline

Quotes

"I enjoy painting because of all the things I can do with it. I'm not trying to make propaganda for New York or anything. I think I would tear down most of the places I paint."
Richard Estes
"The Trouble with Pop was that it made too much comment. A very sophisticated intellectual game type thing. You get tired of it very quickly. The joke has been made and that's it, you can't laugh forever."
Richard Estes
"I don't think my paintings have much emotion. They are rather straightforward. They have the emotion of the subject. Does a Monet water lily painting have emotion? Not really. It's just the water lilies. Very pretty. But emotion is not really what the painting is about."
Richard Estes
"A photograph is just values. It doesn't have line. When you use the photograph, you are using the values, but you are adding line and space and movement, coming from your own experience. That's why although I work from photographs, I like the subject to be things I'm really familiar with. I don't think I could use someone else's photograph of some place I've never been to and make a painting."
Richard Estes
"I think the popular concept of the artist is a person who has this great passion and enthusiasm and super emotion. He just throws himself into this great masterpiece and collapses from exhaustion when it's finished. It's really not that way at all."
Richard Estes
"I think the real test is to plan something and be able to carry it out to the very end. Not that you're always enthusiastic; it's just that you have to get this thing out. It's not done with one's emotions; it's done with the head."
Richard Estes
"It's been my experience that the paintings I've hated working on the most and have gotten the most bored with, really feeling were terrible while working on them, have ended up being my best paintings. The ones that I've had a real enthusiasm for, a real feel for, I thought they were masterpieces at the time but realize they are duds six months later."
Richard Estes
"I do feel an affinity with all realist painters; I don't really consider someone a painter unless the individual is a realist. I love realist painting no matter what it is, but it's certainly got to be a painting of something."
Richard Estes
"If anyone had shown me in 1965 what I would be painting in 1967 I wouldn't have believed it. I was just walking around the city photographing things, and that was what was there. It wasn't that I thought about it or planned it."
Richard Estes

"Unfortunately it has been too easy for anybody to take a photograph, trace it, and make a lousy painting. Photorealism, in that sense, has been bastardized. I can sympathize with a lot of people who just reject it outright, because, like anything else, there is so much bad stuff around. I always thought of myself as a Realist painter."

Richard Estes Signature

Synopsis

When Richard Estes arrived on the New York art scene, Abstract Expressionism had largely run its course. In contrast to the acutely personal, emotional, unstructured, and (some would contend) self-indulgent aesthetic of The New York School, Estes among others introduced a form of painting that emphasized control and an almost machine-like precision. In part, his style emphasized the craft of painting, which was central to the hard-edged, jaw-dropping verisimilitude of photorealistic art. Artists like Estes, Audrey Flack, Chuck Close, and Ralph Goings abandoned the drama of gestural painting and promoted a kind of hyper-realism that seemed more visually descriptive of the increasingly high-tech, post-war age. For Estes, the appeal of the gleaming, reflective surfaces of New York City were irresistible. His paintings, composites of multiple photographs, suggest that the modern world is a sharply articulated one of clean, intersecting lines: orderly and systematic in presenting information about itself. Rather than humans, every kind of material and object tells its own story in an Estes painting to which the artist has always been reluctant to assign symbolic meaning.

Key Ideas

While Estes' paintings appear to be direct, painted copies of photographs, he actually combined multiple photos, often quite loosely, figuring out his compositions in underpaintings he produced using acrylic paint. He would sometimes move elements as he began working to strengthen his compositions and more closely control visual effect. As a consequence of Estes taking these artistic liberties, when viewers have tried to match his paintings with actual sites in New York City or elsewhere, they often discover surprising inconsistencies.
A major compositional strategy for Estes was often to bisect his paintings, producing a kind of split-screen result. This has the effect of making it seem as though you're looking at two different paintings or even worlds. This tactic probably relates to the often surprising juxtapositions of visual elements in the crowded city or, for instance, in a wilderness setting in which technology intrudes, as with his painting of a boat cutting through the icy water in the Antarctic.
By creating his photorealistic montages that seem convincingly whole, Estes produces works in which there are multiple focal points. He confounds the concept of the mathematical or one-point perspective, the Renaissance invention that provided drawn and painted images with the illusion of depth. Instead, viewing a typical Estes painting feels like one is constantly changing vantage points; it's a bit like the effect of covering one eye, then the other and observing how that alters one's view.
Until the 19th century, the craft aspect of painting was regarded as enormously important. Demonstrating one's skill as a draftsperson and a technically-gifted painter was as important as the subject of an individual work. With the advent of modernism, the technical virtuosity of an artist was challenged, brushstrokes emphasized, and traditional materials and methods were rejected if not dispensed with completely. Estes, among other artists, rejected the bias against craft by creating hyper-realistic paintings that recall the trompe l'oeil paintings that had for centuries provided a means for artists to display their superior technical prowess.

Biography

Richard Estes Photo

Childhood

Estes spent the first few years of his life in the small city of Kewanee, Illinois. He was the first of two children, and had a close relationship with his younger brother, Robert. His father, William, ran an auto repair shop in Kewanee.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Richard Estes Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Richard Estes
Interactive chart with Richard Estes's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Marsden HartleyMarsden Hartley
Edward HopperEdward Hopper
Thomas EakinsThomas Eakins
Edgar DegasEdgar Degas
Eugène AtgetEugène Atget

Personal Contacts

Wayne ThiebaudWayne Thiebaud
Salvador DalíSalvador Dalí

Movements

RealismRealism
Modern PhotographyModern Photography

Influences on Artist
Richard Estes
Richard Estes
Years Worked: 1952 - present
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Malcolm MorleyMalcolm Morley
Charles BellCharles Bell
Denis PetersonDenis Peterson

Personal Contacts

Movements

PhotorealismPhotorealism

If you see an error or typo, please:
tell us
Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Jen Glennon

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Jen Glennon
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
Available from:
[Accessed ]