Classic Illusion And Photorealism

Here we will examine the notion that good paintings can be made by simply copying photographs. To do this we shall return to the latter half of the last century when photography was all the rage and the great debate of the time was whether photography should confine itself to science or also develop as an art form. The perceived danger to painter's incomes was what spawned the impressionsists who believed representational art was doomed. Meanwhile it gave the academy painters something to think about -rather like the late 1980's when the champions of computer technology predicted the demise of newspapers and books. It seems they too were a little premature as trees seem in more danger now than then. There is little doubt that Monet,Van Gough, Renoir, Cezanne and others were artists of innovation and that the 'academy' painters such as Bouguereau and Gerome, after Ingre departed this mortal coil, were the next masters of the classic western art technique. I call such painters as Bouguereau and Waterhouse the painter's painters as they combine advanced technique with subtelty to the extent you almost forget the painting is merely a two dimensional illusion. In the fervent battle to maintain a presence against photography it was unfortunate the impressionists were pitted against the academy artists for a shrinking art market. While the impressionists mostly turned to landscape the academy artists concentrated even more on developing a more subtle techniques for figurative and portrait painting.

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