‘BUS WITH REFLECTION OF THE FLATIRON BUILDING’ Oil on canvas; 38″ by 48″; 1966-67
The Portland Museum’s summer exhibit is a comprehensive look at the painter Richard Estes, a primary figure in the crisp, cool movement of American painting known as photorealism, which emerged in the late ’60s and early ’70s from Pop Art, abstract expressionism, and minimalism. On a technical level, the show is magnificent, charting the artist’s progression from a reservedly impressionist young figurative painter to one who discovered, through scrupulous replications of urban (and later, pastoral) life, an original and boundless form.
By several accounts, young Estes was a shy character, an architecture student who dropped out of his studies, and a keen photographer who was only interested in the craft as a means to collect “data” for future paintings. The show’s early paintings support this, with the Mondrian-influenced “Automat”