Richard Estes (b. 1932, Kewanee, IL) is a pioneering figure of the Photorealist movement, best known for his paintings and prints of urban American landscapes that often incorporate mirrored imagery from window, car, or water reflections. His highly finished compositions, which are each based off of dozens of photographs, have been described as abstract realism. Estes is interested in the formal elements of architecture, infrastructure, and other urban imagery, such as flat color and line.
Estes studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago before moving to New York to work as a graphic designer for a number of magazines and advertising firms before turning solely to artmaking in the mid-1960s, while living in Spain. His first solo exhibitions happened concurrently in 1968 at Allan Stone Gallery in New York and the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers. His early paintings explicitly depicted storefronts, cityscapes, and architecture during the day in a hyper-realist form, though he took the artistic license to remove debris or weather elements, such as snow. Later in his career, he introduced depictions of cityscapes during night. His foray into printmaking began in 1981 with a highly ambitious project of eight silkscreen prints that used almost 50 colors.
Estes’ recent retrospective at the Museum of Arts and Design spanned a 50-year career of paintings. Other important exhibitions of his work have been held at Portland Museum of Art, ME; Palazzo Magnani in Florence, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City; and Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.