Have you ever seen an artwork and thought to yourself how lifelike and uncanny the resemblance of the subject was to the actual real-world subject? This article will introduce you to the genre of art known as Hyperrealism as understood in visual art forms such as sculpture. The article will also cover some of the most famous Hyperrealistic sculptors and sculptures in the world that are sure to pique your curiosity!
- 1 An Introduction to Hyperrealism in the Visual Arts
- 2 The Top 10 Hyperrealistic Sculptures and Sculptors
- 2.1 Self-Portrait with Sculpture (1980) by John De Andrea
- 2.2 Ali (1984) by Evan Penny
- 2.3 Queenie II (1988) by Duane Hanson
- 2.4 Wild Man (2005) by Ron Mueck
- 2.5 Still Life (Pietà) (2007) by Sam Jinks
- 2.6 The Comforter (2010) by Patricia Piccinini
- 2.7 Black Sun (2011) by Dirk Dzimirsky
- 2.8 If I Died (2013) by Sun Yuan and Peng Yu
- 2.9 Alive Without Breath (2013) by Keng Lye
- 2.10 Survival of Serena (2017) by Carole Feuerman
- 3 Frequently Asked Questions
An Introduction to Hyperrealism in the Visual Arts
Have you ever wondered what are the most Hyperrealistic sculptures and sculptors of all time? You may have heard of the term “Photorealism”, which refers to the act of studying a photograph and replicating its visual components as accurately as possible to the photograph via different forms of media such as painting, drawing, or graphic media.
Hyperrealism on the other hand is regarded as an extension of photorealism and focuses mainly on the genres of painting and sculpture where the artworks are produced to resemble a high-resolution image.
Below, we will delve deeper into some of the most Hyperrealistic sculptures and sculptors in art history, but first, let us take a look at the origins of this art movement. The Hyperrealism art movement began in the United States and Europe around the 1970s and its term was coined by the French art dealer Isy Brachot in 1973 as the title of an exhibition held in Brussels. Hyperrealism draws from Photorealism through its aesthetic principles as seen in Photorealist paintings of the late 20th century.
Mask II (2001 – 2002) by Ron Mueck, which is believed to be a self-portrait; Jack1956, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
What separates Photorealist artists from Hyperrealist artists is that Hyperrealist artworks tend to carry more emotive qualities in their depictions and narratives. Photorealist artworks can be understood as simply a copy-and-paste approach centered on the imitation of a photograph without much human emotion, political focus, or narrative of any sort. It was a mechanical movement.
Hyperrealistic art still conveys a technical or “mechanical” photographic rendering of a high-resolution image but it is considered a complex approach to representing the softer components of a living organism or object.
The display of meticulousness is not tied to how technically accurate one can achieve a realistic depiction of something but rather the detail in emotion and the character of the subject. Another key difference between Photorealism and Hyperrealism is that the latter makes use of digital photographic images as opposed to Photorealism, which utilized source imagery derived from analog photography.
The Top 10 Hyperrealistic Sculptures and Sculptors
An important statement by the philosopher Jean Baudrillard provides a summary of how one might think about Hyperrealistic art, as a “simulation of something that never really existed”. This leads one to think of a simulated reality or false reality that is convincing enough in its detail that it mimics reality, as captured by digital photography. Hyperrealist sculptures, therefore, force the viewer to come face-to-face with an illusion of reality. Below, we will examine some of the most famous Hyperrealistic sculptures and sculptors of the 20th and 21st centuries.
Self-Portrait with Sculpture (1980) by John De Andrea
|John De Andrea (1941 – Present)
|Polyvinyl, polychromed in oil
|157.5 x 81.3 x 157.5
|Where It Is Housed
|The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA
John De Andrea is one of the world’s leading Hyperrealist sculptors of the 20th-21st century who has created more than 350 Hyperrealistic artworks during his tenure. Born in 1941, this American Hyperrealist spent the last 50 years creating some of the world’s most realistic sculptures as seen in Self-Portrait with Sculpture.
Most of his works include nude figures of men and women rendered with such fine detail that they appear to be alive on display.
Self-Portrait with Sculpture is a Hyperrealistic rendition of the modern Pygmalion myth as detailed in Greek mythology as a legendary sculptor and king who fell in love with his statue (the ultimate representation of womanhood). De Andrea’s human sculpture draws attention to the woman’s skin and enlivens her through illusionary layers of paint that leave her with glossy, lifelike skin.
Ali (1984) by Evan Penny
|Evan Penny (1953 – Present)
|Resin, pigment, hair
|Where It Is Housed
South African artist Evan Penny is one of the world’s most famous Hyperrealistic sculptors whose deep interest in the human form and its impact on the art world has birthed some of the most lifelike sculptures of humans since the 80s.
Penny’s practice revolves around the concepts of Realism and how these have been influenced by different factors such as Romanticism, Classicism, and both digital and traditional photography.
Ali is a slightly less-than-life-sized realistic statue of a female nude that was created in 1984 and shows a figure of a woman presented as though she is waiting, almost in an impatient manner with both arms resting at her sides. Penny is currently based in Toronto, Canada, and works primarily with silicon, hair, pigment, and aluminum. Penny’s talents have also made a mark in the film industry, particularly in special effects.
His works were utilized in major films such as Johnny Mnemonic and X-Men.
Queenie II (1988) by Duane Hanson
|Duane Hanson (1925 – 1996)
|Auto body filler, polychromed in oil, mixed media, with accessories
|Where It Is Housed
|Serpentine Galleries, London, England
Duane Hanson was a famous American Hyperrealist sculptor who specialized in human sculpture inspired by real people. His subjects often revolved around the depiction of ordinary people rendered with minute attention to detail and fixated on the human “flaws” of age and variety in the human form.
Hanson’s statement on his work states that his art is “not about fooling people” rather it is aimed at the “human attitudes of fatigue, rejection, and frustration.”
Hanson’s topics of interest not only exist around the depiction of consumerism as highlighted during the Pop art movement but also reflects the style and approach of Humanist artists such as Jean-François Millet and Honoré Daumier who were also interested in the depiction of “ordinary citizens”.
Hanson produced his first Hyperrealist sculpture in 1966 and has since made many mind-blowing sculptures.
Queenie II is one such realistic statue that portrays a cleaning woman with her cleaning equipment. The sculpture was so realistic that on the night before its exhibition at the Nevada Museum of Art, a false fire alarm went off and the firefighters who arrived mistook the sculpture for a real woman.
Wild Man (2005) by Ron Mueck
|Hans Ronald Mueck (1958 – Present)
|285 x 161.9 x 108
|Where It Is Housed
|National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh, Scotland
This Hyperrealistic human sculpture is one of the most famous artworks of the genre created by Australian artist Ron Mueck in 2005. Mueck brings to life a figure of a “Wild Man” seated on a chair. The tall figure appears larger than the average human height yet despite the figure’s large stature, his body language and facial expressions express that of a vulnerable man who appears to grapple with anxiety.
Mueck intended to evoke sympathy from the viewer by allowing the viewer to witness a solitary man, unclothed, and exposed to the gallery environment.
His naked body and the Hyperrealist effect of it become an expression of vulnerability and fear. Mueck is one of the world’s most famous Hyperrealist sculptors whose history growing up in a doll-making and puppetry environment contributed to his talents in Hyperrealism. Mueck first caught the attention of the world by exhibiting a sculpture of his then-recently deceased father titled Dead Dad, which was also included in the 1997 exhibition, Sensation, hosted at the London Royal Academy of Arts.
Mueck leverages the details of the human body and scale to showcase his talents in Hyperrealist sculpture and often draws inspiration from ideas revolving around unspoken feelings and personal thoughts.
Still Life (Pietà) (2007) by Sam Jinks
|Sam Jinks (1973 – Present)
|Silicon, paint, human hair
|160 x 123 x 73
|Where It Is Housed
This Hyperrealist sculpture by Australian artist Sam Jinks is one to marvel at since it is one of the most realistic human sculptures to date. Jinks transformed one of the most iconic religious tropes in art history, the Pietà, into one of the most famous Hyperrealistic sculptures, which coincided with the unfortunate decline in his grandmother’s health. The Pietà is a symbol of grief, sadness, and lamentation, which originally portrayed the figures of Mary and Jesus Christ.
Here, Jinks replaces the figures with two male figures: one younger and one older man lying in the lap of the younger man.
Jinks also wished to reference the Buddhist practice of meditation where one would visualize the decay of one’s self to put the mind at ease and invite the acceptance of inevitable death. In this way, Jinks explores the limits of Secularism and Humanism while exploring such a grim subject.
Jinks works primarily in resin and human hair among other media to bring to life these emotive scenes and has exhibited work internationally, alongside artists such as Ron Mueck and Jan Nelson.
The Comforter (2010) by Patricia Piccinini
|Patricia Piccinini (1965 – Present)
|mixed media; silicone, fiberglass, steel, human hair, fox fur, and clothing
|60 x 80 x 80
|Where It Is Housed
|Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
The Comforter is one of the most realistic human sculptures that depicts a teenage girl cradling a small figure while leaning against the gallery wall. The human sculpture was exhibited as part of an exhibition that dove straight into Patricia Piccinini’s study of nature and life in a Contemporary world. According to the Australian Hyperrealist, she is inspired by the ethics and narratives of human intervention in the structure of life.
Piccini further acknowledges the potential that this knowledge of the structure of life holds and how strong of a contrast it creates between the ways that it is currently being used.
The teenage girl appears to suffer from the genetic condition known as Hypertrichosis marked by an unusual amount of hair covering her body. Yet, it is actually her condition that makes her stand out significantly and appear even more beautiful.
Piccini also turns Hyperrealism on its head by introducing the complete opposite – Hyper-unreal subjects such as the amorphous creature that the girl cradles.
This tiny creature was sculpted out of Piccinini’s pure imagination and introduces the unrealistic element that makes the viewer question the possibility and potential of science in re-creating new organisms via genetic engineering. In other words, Piccini highlights the ever-narrowing boundary between science fiction and the achievable endeavors of science.
Black Sun (2011) by Dirk Dzimirsky
|Dirk Dzimirsky (1969 – Present)
|Graphite on paper
|50 x 70
|Where It Is Housed
This German-born Hyperrealist artist will have you in awe of his technical skill for creating Hyperrealistic, photographic drawings out of graphite and charcoal, which is not an easy accomplishment especially if you are familiar with the nature of such mediums.
Despite not falling within the realm of sculpture, Dirk Dzimirsky’s creations are carefully staged in terms of lighting and subject matter so that he can reveal the intimate emotions behind each model.
His evocation of “melancholic beauty” is what makes his drawings and paintings stand out as many can attempt to recreate monochromatic artworks but not many can achieve the same level of emotive quality through drawing as Dzimirsky does.
Black Sun is one such drawing that illustrates a portrait of an elderly woman whose gaze is not quite fixed on the viewer directly but is slightly skewed.
This reveals a glimmer in her eyes that reflect a long-lived life and eyes that have witnessed many experiences. It is not so much amazing detail at which Dzimirsky renders the quality of her skin but it is the emotion in her eyes, which reveal the true nature of the drawing. This draws our attention to one of the strengths of Hyperrealistic art; to show emotion.
If I Died (2013) by Sun Yuan and Peng Yu
|Sun Yuan (1972 – Present) and Peng Yu (1974 – Present)
|Fiberglass, silica gel, and simulation sculpture
|Where It Is Housed
|Galleria Continua, Rome, Italy
As if out of a dream, these two Chinese artists, Sun Yuan and Peng Yu have created some of the most dream-like scenarios through Hyperrealistic sculpture. If I Died is a Hyperrealistic simulation crafted out of fiberglass and silica gel to create a life-sized floating figure of an elderly woman suspended among a flock of birds and surrounded by sea creatures below.
In her hand, she holds a flowery wreath while her other hand holds a rope as she floats away with her eyes closed.
Sun Yuan and Peng Yu are currently based in Beijing, where since the 90s, the duo has been producing provocative and extraordinary lifelike sculptures and installations that continue to evoke a refreshing sense of moral critique among the mainstream channels of the global Contemporary art narrative.
Their sculptures are considered a mirror for the public as opposed to a provocation and are ever so necessary to widen the confines of Contemporary convention.
Yuan and Yu are also most recently famous for their 2016 sculpture Can’t Help Myself, which was exhibited at the 2019 Venice Biennale and attracted many spectators to witness the almost violent, towering, mechanical, and profound statement that the installation had.
Alive Without Breath (2013) by Keng Lye
|Keng Lye (Date of birth unavailable – Present)
|Paint, resin, household objects
|Where It Is Housed
Alive Without Breath is a 2013 series of painted artworks that bring to life various creatures of the sea painted on different household items such as sake cups and pails. The artist, Keng Lye, expands the notions of surface and reality by imposing his Hyper Realistic renditions of sea creatures on various objects and surfaces. His main subjects include images of octopi, terrapins, and goldfish.
Lye’s grasp of depth and perspective is also something that brilliantly shines through these realistic sculptures as he merges the nostalgia of the everyday object with the illusion of the third dimension.
Survival of Serena (2017) by Carole Feuerman
|Carole Feuerman (1945 – Present)
|Lacquer on resin with clear Swarovski crystal cap
|96.5 x 213.4 x 81.3
|Where It Is Housed
|Markowicz Fine Art, Miami, Dallas, Laguna Niguel, USA
Survival of Serena is a lacquer-on resin sculpture by one of America’s pioneering Hyperrealist artists, Carole A. Feuerman whose magnificent sculptures of women are aimed at highlighting inner beauty and balance through large-scale sculptures of female swimmers. Swimming as a sport and water has always fascinated the artist and is the basis of inspiration for the majority of her works.
Feuerman’s process is also quite labor-intensive as she works with materials such as bronze, marble, wax, and resin, and later finalizes her work with numerous layers of primer and paint in different locations.
Survival of Serena is part of an edition of lifelike sculptures that were first exhibited at the 2007 Venice Biennale and was awarded first prize at the Beijing Biennale in 2008. The sculpture gained its title in honor of Venice’s previous name La Serenissima, which translates in English to the most or very serene.
The world of Hyperrealistic sculptures and sculptors is a refreshing break from reality that romanticizes the world around us through its superimposition of minute moments often overlooked. The foundations of Hyperrealism draw our attention to the immediate issues that affect the human condition as well as the beauty of life itself. We hope that these incredible sculptors and sculptures have inspired you to embrace the realm of Hyperrealism and its potential for critical intervention.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Hyperrealistic Art?
Hyperrealistic art refers to art that is created to resemble a real-life object or subject as captured in a high-resolution photograph. Hyperrealistic art mimics the photographic image quality yet it is executed via other mediums to appear as realistic as possible.
Who Are the Most Famous Hyperrealist Sculptors?
The most famous Hyperrealist sculptors include artists such as Ron Mueck, Patricia Piccinini, Duane Hanson, Sam Jinks, John De Andrea, Evan Penny, and Carole Feuerman among the most popular.
What Is the Purpose of Creating Lifelike Sculptures in Art?
The purpose of creating lifelike sculptures in art goes back to traditional forms of representation and the idea of recreating the image of the human form as realistic as possible to real life. Aside from imitation and flattery purposes, artists also attempt to render artworks with as much Realism as possible in order to draw attention to a particular theme in the artwork, critique it, or simply represent it. Creating artwork to appear life-like evokes a sense of amusement and wonder in the viewers through the artistic devices of illusion.
Jordan Anthony is a Cape Town-based film photographer, curator, and arts writer. She holds a Bachelor of Art in Fine Arts from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, where she explored themes like healing, identity, dreams, and intuitive creation in her Contemporary art practice. Jordan has collaborated with various local art institutions, including the KZNSA Gallery in Durban, the Turbine Art Fair, and the Wits Art Museum. Her photography focuses on abstract color manipulations, portraiture, candid shots, and urban landscapes. She’s intrigued by philosophy, memory, and esotericism, drawing inspiration from Surrealism, Fluxus, and ancient civilizations, as well as childhood influences and found objects. Jordan is working for artfilemagazine since 2022 and writes blog posts about art history and photography.
Cite this Article
Jordan, Anthony, “Hyperrealistic Sculptures and Sculptors – Discover Realistic Statues.” artfilemagazine – Your Online Art Source. December 26, 2022. URL: https://artfilemagazine.com/hyperrealistic-sculptures-and-sculptors/
Anthony, J. (2022, 26 December). Hyperrealistic Sculptures and Sculptors – Discover Realistic Statues. artfilemagazine – Your Online Art Source. https://artfilemagazine.com/hyperrealistic-sculptures-and-sculptors/
Anthony, Jordan. “Hyperrealistic Sculptures and Sculptors – Discover Realistic Statues.” artfilemagazine – Your Online Art Source, December 26, 2022. https://artfilemagazine.com/hyperrealistic-sculptures-and-sculptors/.