Denis Peterson earned a Painting MFA and teaching fellowship at Pratt Institute where he taught figure drawing while restoring 16th and 17th century Flemish paintings for public museum collections. Among the first Photorealists to emerge in New York, his photorealist paintings were exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum, one of the premier art institutions in the world. His hyperrealist works show at museums and galleries throughout the US and Europe.
Many of Denis Peterson's groundbreaking paintings can be found among some of the most notable art collections worldwide. He is widely recognized as the primary architect of Hyperrealism, a splinter movement from the more traditional painting genre of Photorealism which systemically idealized and fetishized icons of contemporary culture in a detached and at times, banal framework. Abandoning traditional conventions, Denis Peterson illuminated the commodification of alternate realities found within that same contemporary culture: mass consumerism, systemic classism and societal decadence.
He portrays anonymous ordinary people caught up in contemporary conflicts, neither glorifying nor heroising them. They are simply deserving of having their likeness recorded as any famous person, and more importantly, of having their humanity recognized. A radical painter, Peterson's compelling virtuosity addresses the timeless human condition with precision and dignity. His socially conscious paintings are the products of an extraordinary labor of compassion.
One demonstration of the way photography became assimilated into the art world is the success of photorealist painting in the late
1960s and early 1970s. Also called super-realism or hyper-realism, painters like
often worked from photographic stills to create paintings that appeared to be photographs.
Art the Whole Story Thames & Hudson 40,000 Years of Creativity Rizzoli Publishing A Brush Stroke for Every Human Suffering Siletz Denis Peterson Wikipedia 20th C American Culture Edinburgh Univ Press, UK Hyperrealism Catalog Olomouc, MOMA Art & Artists Tate Modern, UK
"The first Photorealists were Chuck Close, Don Eddy, Richard Estes, Ralph Goings, Robert Bechtle, Audrey Flack, Denis Peterson, and Malcolm Morley. Each began practicing some form of Photorealism around the same time, often utilizing different modes of application and techniques, and citing different inspirations for their work. However, for the most part they all worked independent from one another." THE ART STORY • MODERN ART INSIGHT
"Denis Peterson is an American hyperrealist painter whose photorealist works have been exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art, Butler Institute of American Art, Tate Modern, Springville Museum of Art, Corcoran MPA and Max Hutchinson Gallery in New York. He is widely acknowledged as the pioneer and primary architect of Hyperrealism." DENIS PETERSON ARTICLE • WIKIPEDIA
"The fundamental component in Denis Peterson's dynamic works is not necessarily the subject of the painting, but with man's proximity to it. Denis' paintings address the banality of the human condition, whether it be the streets of New York or the fields of Darfur." THOMAS PAUL FINE ARTS
"Emotional empathy with his subjects distinguishes Peterson’s work from the cooler response of Photorealists. Foregrounding figures combined with softer focus of their environment and extreme attention to physiognomic expression convey a sense of inwardness and reflective self-consciousness." DR. KENNETH HAY - CHAIR, CONTEMPORARY ART PRACTICE • LEEDS UNIVERSITY
"Peterson portrays the anonymous, ordinary people caught up in contemporary conflicts, neither glorifying nor heroising them. They are simply as deserving of having their likeness recorded as any famous or ‘important’ person, and more importantly, deserve simply to have their humanity recognized." OLOMOUC MUSEUM OF MODERN ART
"Peterson is known for his fine draftsmanship and is technically more advanced than prior Photorealists. His techniques and effects illustrate that Photorealism, while based in the 1970s, continues on. . . He sought such heightened believability in order to further push social issues into the art world, similar to sculptor Duane Hanson." THE ART STORY • IMPORTANT ART AND ARTISTS OF PHOTOREALISM
"Denis Peterson, Audrey Flack, Richard Estes and Chuck Close worked from photographic stills to create paintings. The hyperrealist genre is clearly more than an attempt to replicate a photograph." AMERICAN CULTURE IN THE 2OTH CENTURY • EDINBURGH UNIVERSITY PRESS
"Denis Peterson distinguished hyperrealism from photorealism making meticulous changes to a work's depth of field, color and composition in order to emphasize a socially conscious message about contemporary culture." ART THE WHOLE STORY • THAMES AND HUDSON PUBLISHING
"Denis Peterson is widely acknowledged as one of the pioneers of the hyperrealism movement. His recent works encompass meticulously detailed New York cityscapes that explore the frenetic pace of the modern American metropolis. Rendered with magnificent photographic precision, Peterson’s paintings bring the chaos of the street into clear focus, capturing tiny occurrences that would otherwise go unnoticed." PLUS ONE GALLERY • NEW YORK THROUGH THE EYES OF DENIS PETERSON
"Denis Peterson's work focuses on persecution, human dispersion, genocide and the reality of refugees everywhere. Peterson worked to expose totalitarian regimes by portraying corruption and oppression. His themes have been universally defined as drawing characters who face - with amazing inner calm - the horror, deadly diseases and impending affliction surrounding them." MARYAM ADEL, EDITOR • AL JAZEERA
"One demonstration of the way photography became assimilated into the art world is the success of photorealist painting in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It is also called super-realism or hyper-realism and painters like Richard Estes, Denis Peterson, Audrey Flack, and Chuck Close often worked from photographic stills to create paintings that appeared to be photographs." TATE MODERN
"Denis Peterson initially emerged as a photorealist painter. However, he would soon become widely acknowledged as a primary architect of Hyperrealism. His meticulously detailed New York scenes showcase a range in subject matter, from the the city's bright billboards to it colorful residents. This dual focus has culminated in a diverse body of work that captures the spirit of the city." MODERN MET
"In his work, Peterson asserts a man of negligible social status who inhabits the lowest stratum of society is just as worthy of having his portrait painted as any titled individual or famous person and just as deserving of having his humanity recognized." FROM CAVE PAINTING TO STREET ART • RIZZOLI PUBLISHING
"This instance of hyperrealism is a performance art. Viewers are deliberately made to notice the amazing amount of time and painstaking effort that went into portraying this. Peterson isn't showing off; he is a radical painter, compelling us with his dedication." ARI SILETZ • A BRUSH STROKE FOR EVERY HUMAN SUFFERING
"This is an artist who has chosen to use his art as a humanitarian effort to change the world, as seen in his stunning Darfur paintings on genocide." BRENDA BLOCKMAN • WOR TV
"His latest series is a showcase for how far he can take his abilities: he is, really, an Olympic-level athlete of painting. Denis Peterson is in a class by himself. He is the Michael Phelps of painting, the Usain Bolt of airbrush and paintbrush. He makes Vermeer look like Jackson Pollock. " C. RYWALT • NYC ART
"Somewhere during the process of painting, Peterson imbues something of himself into the work, which is why his images succeed where his contemporaries do not. Devoid of any human presence, his locations are ripe for ghosts, the atmosphere heavy with unassuaged yearning." RIK RAWLING • KEEP IT HYPERREAL
"Peterson's work addresses a sense of loss, pain/angst concerning our position in a culture dominated by corporate America. People are viewed (once again) as individuals, though caught in the overwhelming commodification of everything, some so completely lost, that they are no longer individuals." J. BITTINGER KLOMP • METAMODERNIST/HYPERREALIST ART--John>
"Renaissance painters catered to emerging capitalism, the sons in David’s painting Oath of the Horatii symbolize French colonies, and Peterson’s Darfur painting, “Don’t Shed No Tears” provokes America to intervene with her wealth." EVERIPEDIA • DENIS PETERSON - LIFE AND WORK
"Peterson's paintings have a timeless symbolic meaning rather than the mere appearance of a photo ...breaking from the structures of photography as an acceptable simulation of reality and instead creating a sense of personalization and interaction." JOSHUA ROSE • AMERICAN ART COLLECTOR
"Living with artwork differs from briefly witnessing art on exhibition. All of Peterson's works are well-made, capture attention at the surface level, and provoke immediate admiration of technique. This makes them visual arguments that can be lived with while one works into the deeper levels of discourse." CARLETON PALMER • NY EXAMINER
"Denis Peterson brought unacknowledged subjects to the gallery, but his works are arresting, forcing viewers to confront genocide, homelessness, and totalitarianism." COLTON VALENTINE • HUFFINGTON POST
"Perhaps one approach an artist might take is sheer commitment. One might make painted images that are so highly crafted, detailed, and labor intensive, that so earnestly suggest every pore and thread, that the message is simply, I believe, and I care. Look at this. It is important. Perhaps this is what Peterson has done." C. ASHLEY • LOOK SEE
"In creating these painstaking, handmade works, Mr. Peterson is working in an artistic tradition that goes as far back as the Renaissance. The results speak for themselves. His timeless compositions lead the pack in hyperrealism painting." CANADA GLOBE AND MAIL
"Peterson's semiotic paintings are more deliberate polymorphic illusions of reality and considerably less monolithic than those found in traditional photorealism. These works invite wonder both for their high standard of craftsmanship and the individual vision of the artist." ART AND ANTIQUES MAGAZINE
"These photorealistic works are visually compelling; often bearing witness to historical evidence of grotesque mistreatment of people by governments, societies, and systemic classism." JOHN BATHKE • CABLE NEWS 12
"Artist Denis Peterson leaves onlookers impressed with his real life scenes showing cities around the world - but gobsmacked when they realise every inch of these pictures are painted." EUROPEAN UNION TIMES
"As metaphors that tell our current society's story, these images expose the doubt and vulnerability that many in this nation feel, but they also bring a sense of humanity that can unite us and help us feel the burdens borne by our fellow citizens." ART REFLECTS TRUTH • DESERET NEWS
"At first glance some of his works look like a simple billboard over a busy urban setting. But on closer inspection the hidden secret is revealed - people and obscure reflections on background windows have been conjured up by his brushstrokes." UK DAILY MAIL
"Peterson’s hyperrealist paintings are visual statements peppered with underlying socio-economic paradigms. In viewing, it becomes immediately apparent that techniques and methods are a product of his work, not the other way around, the illusion of reality as a transformational aesthetic is a virtual means to an end." POETS AND ARTISTS MAGAZINE • USA TODAY COVER STORY
"Whereas the camera does this mindlessly as a matter of optics, this artist has endured whatever it took to make sure human eyes do not respond as mindlessly. We can flip the page on a Newsweek photo, worth a click of the camera, but we can’t as easily turn away from such an extraordinary labor of compassion." ARI SILETZ • AUTHOR OF THE MULLAH WITH NO LEGS
"Very beautiful and so exquisitely crafted I initially took them for photographs. Peterson's work is serious, sophisticated, politically and morally engaged." ROBERT AYERS • ART INFO
"Peterson's work exemplifies cityscape photorealism at its best. Precision, color and exactitude are extraordinarily rich in both technique and composition." CORCORAN MCLEAN PROJECT FOR THE ARTS
"The incredible realism of life on the streets in Denis Peterson's hyperreal paintings bewilders viewers." BUTLER INSTITUTE OF AMERICAN ARTS
"To witness genocide is to feel not only the chill of your own mortality, but the degradation of all humanity. Even the most brilliant photography cannot capture the landscape of genocide." FERGAL KEANE • BBC TV
"Gottfried Helnwein, Denis Peterson, and Craig Wylie are all hyperrealist artists who use their work to send a social message. These artists aggressively and unapologetically confront the human condition with their hyperrealist narrative which serves as a commentary on social and political issues." PLUS ONE GALLERY • LONDON
"Major exhibitions have showcased the works of contemporary artists Chuck Close, Denis Peterson and Ron Mueck." BROOKLYN MUSEUM
"They are the images of everyday life, snapshots of a busy, sometimes lonely, existence. But there's a difference. The images are not photos, but paintings! Only a handful of artists can achieve this result." DENHAM HITCHCOCK • MSN TV AUSTRALIAN NEWS
"Peterson has often utilized the hyperrealism painting style as a phenomenological vehicle for social change. In his work "Dust to Dust", Peterson asserts that a man of negligible social status who inhabits the lowest stratum of society is just as worthy of having his portrait painted as any titled individual or famous person, and, more importantly, just as deserving of having his humanity recognized." ALCHETRON ENCYCLOPEDIA
"Breaking with the formal conventions of traditional painting and its aesthetic limitations, he pioneered a splinter movement within photorealism that he called hyperrealism, now a widely acknowledged school of art with a significant international following." ART ODYSSEY
"Denis Peterson captures the harsh realities of the American dream with his paintings. Using only his brush, he manages to capture how hard it can be to make it in America. Peterson’s paintings deftly illustrate the gap between the wealthy and poor of American society." MICHAEL HINES • TREND HUNTER ART & DESIGN
"Western artists such as David, da Vinci and Denis Peterson are important in part because of their skill and innovation, but also because they come from cultures that dominate the modern global power scene. Renaissance painters catered to emerging capitalism, the sons in David’s painting above symbolize French colonies, and Petersen’s Darfur painting, “Don’t Shed No Tears” provokes America to intervene with her wealth." ARI SILETZ • A BRUSHSTROKE FOR EVERY HUMAN SUFFERING
"Early 21st century Hyperrealism was founded on the aesthetic principles of Photorealism. American painter Denis Peterson, whose pioneering works are universally viewed as an offshoot of Photorealism, first used "Hyperrealism" to apply to the new movement and its splinter group of artists." HYPERREALISM ARTICLE • WIKIPEDIA
My Photorealist paintings in the late 1960s and early 1970s were an emerging genre that became a mainstream school of art following Abstract Expressionism and POP Art. However, lifelike images were not actualized simply by meticulously duplicating details in photographs.
The illusion was supported through subtle tonal changes and relationships of abstract shapes as compositional elements, without which my work would have lost much of its visceral energy. Airbrushing acrylic paints provided the luxury of spontaneously blending colors, that is, directly on the canvas through glazes. Combining opaque and transparent applications achieved more tonal articulation than otherwise possible in compositional lighting and shading.
When teaching in college, I maintained high standards in representational art, be it drawing or painting. Many works can be beautifully detailed and tonally modelled; yet they can fall short of the mark when the visual statement lacks any compelling content or contemporary context.
In applying these same high standards to my own work over the years, my painting style evolved into a more advanced genre. I spontaneously termed it Hyperrealism based on my readings of philosopher Jean Baudrillard, whose compelling treatises identified hyperrealism as an alternate reality permeating our culture. For me, applying an appropriate descriptive term for a new genre was easily eclipsed by re-affirming a genuine state of hyper-reality in my work.
Consequently, it became clear that my visual observations were acutely aligned with hyperrealism as an illusory backdrop to decadence, mass consumerism, targeted populations and the like, often requiring close interaction with my subjects. This fueled my work to accelerate into an expansive range of subjects with approaches well outside the conventions and values of photorealism along with its more commonly accepted aesthetic principles.
A relatively recent painting genre, hyperrealism is an evolutionary extension of photorealism, sans conventional aesthetics. Deliberately polymorphic, it adds a new dynamic to challenge perceptions through altered illusions of reality and phantasmagorical visual statements.
Hyperrealism is a counter culture school of painting, offering a visual excursion into alternate realities (hyper-reality) secured by an existential frame of reference, the human condition. It is a deiberate foray into more substantive subjects, maintaining compositional integrity while exploring our social and cultural environments as excursions into aesthetic expression. Compositional integrity is given equivalent consideration to content, expression and meaning.
It is no longer enough to secure paintings in mundane frames of reference: objectified themes, banal subjects, or staged settings. The illusion is secondary, a means to an end with an ultimate goal to create timeless compositions that mesmerise the viewer and evoke a core response.
Humanity, and the expression of humanity in my work, are undercurrents that often confront an illusory sense of reality with an oppositional realm of hyperreality. It is my intention to create a personalized viewpoint and to that end, aesthetic expression in a wide range of subjects. At their core center, these images at once articulate, question and challenge our metrics of verisimilitude and illusion in their cultural subcontexts.
Some of my painting series have called for close interaction with subjects whereby sensitivity to surroundings was paramount to communicating their human needs. These hyperreal images can provoke our sensibilities, our perceptions, and the appearance of reality. In summary, my paintings are empirical compositions meticulously crafted as compelling visual statements to confront the ordered, the disordered, the connected, and the unconnected.