Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery will host Europe’s first major Photorealism retrospective in what is being seen as a ‘real coup’ for the city.

Photorealism: 50 Years of Hyperrealistic Painting, which opens in November, is the first major large-scale retrospective in Europe devoted to this art genre and features celebrated artists such as Birmingham-born John Salt and Chuck Close.

Surveying the work of the major US artists considered to have developed the style, the exhibition includes the large-scale hyperrealistic paintings of American life with which Photorealism became famous.

In the late 1960s, a group of artists emerged in the US whose focus was the realistic depictions of everyday objects and scenes. Photography was used as a source for their paintings, with images of consumer goods, cars, motorcycles, diners and cityscapes – the clichés of American life – painstakingly reproduced to a much larger scale in oil and acrylic.

This first group of Photorealists had its roots in the United States, taking the American way of life as subject. Transport was a running theme in this early period, with scenes of trucks, planes, motorcycles and cars common. The seminal works Bride (1969) and White Chevy – Red Trailer (1975) by Birmingham-born artist John Salt – himself raised in a family employed in car manufacturing – are included in the exhibition.

Photorealism: Raphaella Spence, Vegas (2011)
 

The great Chuck Close, meanwhile, became known for massive scale portraits, constructing faces through a complex grid-based reconstruction from photography.

The second generation of Photorealists, working in the 1980s and 1990s, built upon the work of those who had gone before them, with an increasingly international focus. The era of digital photography inevitably impacted upon Photorealism, with a third, present-day, group of artists creating paintings pixel-by-pixel, resulting in pin-sharp accuracy.

The exhibition features work by these later Photorealists, including Peter Maier who - having worked for several years as a designer in the car industry – uses special automobile paint applied with a spray gun in as many as 25 layers to make his images of highly polished car bodies.

Andy Horn, Head of Exhibitions, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, said: “Not since the 1970s has there been the opportunity to view so many Photorealist paintings in one place. This exhibition – the first in Europe to gather all the star names of the genre – is a real coup for Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.''

Dates: November 30, 2013 – March 30, 2014. Visit www.bmag.org.uk for ticket details and opening times.