ArtSunday: Photorealism and Jerry Van

When it comes to art, part of me has never fully grokked the photorealists. I mean, in an age before photography, sure, but these days if you want photorealism wouldn’t you prefer, you know, photos?

Then there’s the other part of me, the part that’s always cognizant of Keats:

‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.’

The truth is that what some of these artists are capable of is nothing short of remarkable. Their technique is necessarily flawless and the best of them can infuse a subject, by design, with a greater degree of character, gravity, even intent than a photographer, who is more or less constrained by what’s in front of the camera.

There, that ought to get an argument or two started.

But I haven’t come here today to debate photorealism. Instead, I have come to praise it, and more specifically, to say some nice things about a Denver artist I just discovered this past week: Jerry Van. Jerry’s galleries cover his work with florals, landscapes, wildlife and people. While he’s done some wonderful work in all four categories, his flowers are especially striking. Like “Croton,” which fairly explodes off the canvas.

I was also immediately drawn to “Stripes,” perhaps because of the stark foreground contrast, but more likely because there’s something so very compelling about the expression of the zebra closest to us. “Soulful” is a little too easy a word. Instead, there’s a weariness that invites empathy, expanding the emotional depth of what seems at first glance like a fairly straightforward picture.

Maybe that’s just me – by all means, surf his galleries and draw your own conclusions.

In any case, photorealism is a challenging genre that’s capable of tremendous beauty, drama and intellectual depth. May be your thing, may not. But I imagine having one of Jerry’s paintings hanging in your living room makes it a more vibrant and interesting place to sit, relax, and reflect.

Jerry Van is a working artist, so if you see something you like in the store it can be had. Also, if you’re a Denver area resident and you’re interested in Jerry’s work, he’s offering a 25% Parade of Homes discount on all of his original works through August. This discount isn’t available through the online store, so if you’d like to take advantage of it hit the Contact tab at the top of the page and I can put you in touch with him.


  • I have taken pictures that look exactly like that first one. We have those plants in our back yard in Hawaii. 🙂 I actually like the hyper-realism of some of this stuff. And, like you said, the artist has more control over what’s “in frame.” I wonder if it’s a lot harder to do this if you are trying to show movement. Most of the paintings seem to be “stills.”

  • As an artist i used to admire photorealism and indeed produced photorealist paintings myself. I realised over time however, that it was the technical skills I admired. I came to see that nature is the perfect creator, and that in emulating it, an artist is not being a creator themselves (which by all accounts is what being creative is all about) but merley recording what they see. I would say then that practicing photorealism is a positive way of honing painterly skills. The real creativity starts when an artist produces work that is completely from them, in other words they create individual, original, art that only they can produce.

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