Do We Need Photorealism in the Age of Photography?

A recent visit to the British National Gallery has left me awed with the massive scale of four pieces from the 16th century like I have never seen before; a set of four entitled The Elements by the artist Joachim Beuckelaer.

The gallery's web site describes his work as containing illusionistic details but on an often heroic scale. The use of colour has the work as fresh as if it was painted yesterday. But i was so struck with the realism of his style, the almost photographic depiction of people, fruits, and vegetables, that i am inclined to believe he must have used a technical camera-like device to assist his art. Such things were not unknown back then.


"Four Elements: Water" by Joachim Beuckelaer.  Photo source: Wikimedia.
"Four Elements: Water" by Joachim Beuckelaer. Photo source: Wikimedia.

Then I recall that for that age the art of painting was tantamount to doing a photographic essay.

Now that we have not just photography, but digital photography, we wonder if artists should really still be doing photo-realistic pieces.

The jury is still out for two reasons.

  1. There is intense vicarious recreation when we paint reality with some success as well as view the finished pieces. The combination of the hand of the artist as well as the illusion of reality adds to the humanity of the experience.
  2. A certain level of abstraction adds to the cognitive as well as emotional enjoyment therefore the neo-impressionist school is probably still the desired compromise.

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robertsloan2 profile image

robertsloan2 7 years ago from San Francisco, CA

I'm going to answer this in my own Hub.


robertsloan2 profile image

robertsloan2 7 years ago from San Francisco, CA

Here's a link to my answer. http://hubpages.com/education/We-need-photorealism...

It was way too complicated to just put it in a comment.


glendoncaba profile image

glendoncaba 7 years ago from Somewhere in the hubverse Author

Read your wonderful insightful hub. I am still convinced that for fine art the neo-impressionistic school offers a wonderful middle ground. Of course I beg the question what is fine art as opposed to commercial art. Labels are necessary but labels always bring about disputes. I just want to paint to enjoy and sell. Yet we can't ignore the social and historical context of the work. :)

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