Richard Estes

(Kewanee, Illinois, 1932 - )

North America, American

Richard Estes studied at the Art Institute of Chicago from 1952 to 1956. He moved to New York in 1959 and had his first New York show in 1967 at the Allan Stone Gallery. In 1996 he was awarded the MECA Award for Achievement as a Visual Artist at the Maine College of Art in Portland.

Estes is widely considered the master of Photorealism, a form of hyperrealist painting in which a photograph is projected onto the canvas as the source of the image and then painted. In Estes’ work however, photographs are used only as a starting point; he does not project an image onto a canvas and then paint it. He uses several different photographs to stimulate the idea of the picture and then paints the work free handedly using the photographs and intuition to create the image. His compositions are often organized along strong horizontal or vertical lines, and details are ordered in carefully controlled disarray. Estes captures the complexity of his works with his use of multiple reflections. By including reflections in signs or windows of scenes that are outside the realm of the image, the artist creates an illusion of larger space expanding both in front and behind the viewer.

Unlike other photo realists, Estes uses neither a grid system nor a projector to produce his paintings. He loosely draws the entire scene with acrylic paint, then switches to oil to polish, blend, adjust and sharpen the image. The perspective is altered – proportions may change, objects appear or disappear, lighting may be modified, and expanses of glass are polished to a pristine shine, wiped clean of any fingerprints or smudges. The simplification of objects and details gives Estes’ work a crispness and clarity that is distinctly different from most photorealist paintings.

Northeast Harbor, Mount Desert, Maine

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