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 Richard Estes  (1932 - )

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Lived/Active: New York/Maine/Illinois      Known for: super real urban view painting, reflections

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Ad Code: 2
Richard Estes
from Auction House Records.
34th Street, Manhattan, Looking East
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Kewanee, Illinois, Richard Estes became a New York and Maine based artist, earning a reputation for photo-realist painting after working as a commercial artist.

He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago from 1952 to 1956 and then spent ten years in publishing and advertising in New York and in Spain.

By 1966, he had saved enough money to paint full time, and two years later had his first solo exhibition in New York where he has also exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. In 1971, he earned a National Council for the Arts Fellowship.

Sources include:
Art and Antiques
Matthew Baigell, Dictionary of American Art

Biography from
Born in 1932 in Illinois, Richard Estes is regarded as one of the founders of the Photo-Realist movement which emerged in America in the late 1960s. He belongs to a rich history of artists who have depicted New York City, and has a detailed knowledge of the city's diverse architecture, infrastructure and habitants. Although not a native New Yorker, New York has been his home and a recurring motif in his work for over 30 years.

Habitually depicting urban landscapes, Estes begins with photography to collect and record information. He then works free-hand to paint in a fluid and open-ended process his remarkably intricate and realistic scenes. While unquestionably reconstructing reality, Estes' paintings and prints expand the sensory range of the viewer allowing a greater focus and providing more information than the naked eye. His prints are no exception in creating this extrasensory experience. They are built up in layers of color and capture a palette and vitality similar to the detailed clarity of his paintings. Estes remains a prominent figure in the contemporary art world, and has secured a place in art history as one of the most captivating American realists to date.

Estes has exhibited in galleries and museums worldwide. His work can be found in public and private collections including the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York; Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri; Neue Galerie der Stadt Aachen, Ludwig Collection, Aachen, Germany; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, New York; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, New York.

Resides: New York and Maine


1983 Allan Stone Gallery, New York, NY

1985 Louis K. Meisel Gallery, New York, NY

1990 "Richard Estes: The Complete Prints and the Japan Paintings,"

Sert Gallery, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard

University, Cambridge, MA

1990 "Richard Estes 1990," Japan Traveling Exhibition: Isetan Museum,

Tokyo; The Museum of Art, Kintetsu, Osaka; Hiroshima City Museum

of Contemporary Art, catalogue

1991 "Richard Estes: Urban Landscapes," Portland Museum of Art, ME

1994 "Paintings 1967-1993", Louis K. Meisel Gallery, New York, NY

1995 Marborough Gallery, New York, NY


1983 "Modern Art in the West," Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art

1984 "Andrew Wyeth: A Trojan Horse Modernist," Greenville County Museum

of Art, Greenville, SC

1984 "On 42nd Street: Artists Visions," Whitney Museum of American Art at

Philip Morris, New York

1991 "Images in American Art 1960-1990," Southern Alleghanies Museum of

Art, Saint Francis College Mall, Loretto, PA

1994 "Review of the Season", Louis K. Meisel Gallery, New York, NY

1996 "Paper Work", Louis K. Meisel Gallery, New York, NY, Feb. 3 - 24

1996 "Attention to Detail (Realism in All Forms)", Louis K. Meisel

Gallery, New York, NY, March 2 - 23

1997 "Photorealism", Jaffe Baker Gallery, Boca Raton, FL, Jan. 9-31

1997 "Photorealists", Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, GA,

October 2 - November 25


Arthur, John. "Conversations with Richard Estes," Architectural Digest,

Oct. 1982.

New York Magazine, May 13, 1985, p. 40 illustration.

Meisel, Louis K. "Richard Estes", Composicion Arquitectonica-Art & Architecture, Feb. 1990, pp. 5 - 24.

New York Magazine, November 26, 1990, ill. p. 38.

Hurwitz, Laurie S. "Richard Estes: Illusion and Reality," American Artist, Dec. 1991, pp. 28 - 35.

Smith, Roberta. "Art in Review", The New York Times, May 19, 1995, p.C28.

Kramer, Hilton. "Richard Estes, Photorealist: Beautiful but Dumb", the New York Observer, June 5, 1995, p.1, p.19.

"The Photorealists," Savannah College of Art and Design-The Magazine, Fall/Winter 1997, pp. 33-34.

Tully, Judd. "Buoyant Market for Charles Bell's 'Fewer than 200' Works",

Art Newsletter, 13 January 1998, Vol. XXIII, No. 10, p. 5.


Richard Estes: A Decade. Allan Stone Gallery, New York, 1983.

On 42nd Street: Artists Visions. Whitney Museum of American Art at Philip Morris, New York, Sept. 26 - Dec. 5, 1984.

Arthur, John. Introduction to Richard Estes. traveling exhibition, Japan: Isetan Museum, Tokyo, July 26 - Aug. 21; The Museum of Art, Kintetsu, Osaka, Aug. 24 - Sept. 10; Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, Sept. 15 - Oct. 21, 1990.

New Art in an Old City/2. with essay by Edward Lucie-Smith. The Virlane Foundation and The K & B Corporation Collections, New Orleans, LA, pp.37-38, 1994.

Van Baron, Judith & Betz, Margaret. Photorealists, Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, GA, 1997.


Arthur, John. Realists at Work: Studio Interviews and Working Methods of 10 Leading Contemporary Painters, New York: Watson-Guptill, 1983.

Finch, Christopher. American Watercolors, New York: Abbeville Press, 1986.

Meisel, Louis K., and John Perreault. Richard Estes: The Complete Paintings

1966-1985. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1986.

Mathey, Francois. American Realism: A Pictorial Survey from the Early 18th

Century to the Seventies. New York: Portland House, 1987.

Arthur, John. Spirit of Place: Contemporary Landscape Painting and The

American Tradition. Boston: Bulfinch Press, Little Brown, 1989.

Wood, Michael, et al. Art of the Western World. New York: Summit Books, 1989.

Arthur, John( introduction by). Richard Estes 1990, Japan Traveling Exhibition: Isetan Museum, Tokyo; The Museum of Art, Kintetsu, Osaka; Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, 1990.

Polsky, Richard. Art Market Guide. San Francisco: The Marlit Press, 1998

Biography from Art Cellar Exchange:

The Solitude of Richard Estes

Growing up in urban Chicago had perhaps the greatest influence on the subject matter and style that Richard Estes chose in his art.  His photo-realistic paintings and printed works capture the urban landscape, but with an eerie stillness.  The energy of human activity is missing, creating a quiet mood in his work similar to that in the paintings of Edward Hopper.  This is fitting since Estes studied Hopper's canvases, along with those of Thomas Eakins, Edgar Degas and many others at the Chicago Art Institute where he was a student from 1952-1956.

What is the most striking about Este's art is the way that he chooses to depict his subject matter.  In "A Train," for example, the subway car is shown void of human passengers.  It looks cold and stark, at odds with scene of bustling activity typically witnessed by subway travelers.  In this piece and others like it, Estes seems to be making a statement about the lack of humanity in our public spaces. Somehow, in modern design the warmth of the human touch that was found in traditional market places and culture centers has been lost.  The cold, metallic surfaces of the train bear the earmarks of a space designed strictly for utilitarian purposes.  It shows no evidence or consideration for the thousands of souls who pass through the train's doors everyday.  In "Airport," "Bus Interior," and "A Train" Estes not only shows his skill as a realist artist, but he skillfully captures the solitude of an impersonal city.

Although he began his career as a graphic designer, Estes had confidence that he could support himself as a professional fine artist.  After less than a decade working as a graphic designer, he had saved up enough money to quit doing graphic work and devote himself to painting full-time.  Within two years, Estes had his first one-man show and has since been exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

Submitted in June of 2006 by Amy Kleppinger.

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