Realism has taken many forms in Art. In the modern context, it is philosophically derived from Locke and Des Cartes & originated by Thomas Reid, a Scottish "Common Sense" philosopher who replaced no less than Adam Smith at Glasgow. Artistically, Realism arises in 1850's France as a reaction to Romanticism. Championed by Courbet, as a way to get closer to the Truth (and further away from Romanticism), with such works as "Bon Jour Monsieur Courbet" . Photography had already been invented and announced to the world by Daguerre in 1839.
Photorealism began around 1969, derived from Pop Art and partly in reaction to the spontaneous, unplanned brush strokes Abstract Expressionism, the term coined by NYC art dealer Louis K. Meisel, who defined it thusly:
1. The Photo-Realist uses the camera and photograph to gather information.
2. The Photo-Realist uses a mechanical or semimechanical means to transfer the information to the canvas.
[This was usually done by projecting slides]
3. The Photo-Realist must have the technical ability to make the finished work appear photographic.
4. The artist must have exhibited work as a Photo-Realist by 1972 to be considered one of the central Photo-Realists.
5. The artist must have devoted at least five years to the development and exhibition of Photo-Realist work.
It was first used institutionally the next year in a show at the Whitney called "Twenty-Two Realists". It was also called Super-Realism, New Realism, Sharp Focus Realism, or Hyper Realism at the beginning. The first Photorealists were Richard Estes, Ralph Goings, Chuck Close, Charles Bell, Audrey Flack, Don Eddy, Robert Bechtle and Tom Blackwell.
At this site, you can see the work of ten photo-realist painters.Here's the results for a Google search for Photorealist images.
There were also Photorealist sculptors ("Verists"), the most famous of which is Duane Hanson.
Photorealism continues to this day, but has shifted from a mainly American movement, to a European one.
The pay-off for this rigid way of working was a kind of objectivity, a Pure Truth expressed in paint, not the photographic print. Estes and others took this in different directions. One thing Estes did was to explore the origins of Impressionism via light, space and subjects. Like much Pop Art, Photorealism is concerned with banal, consumerist subjects and everyday scenes.
There is much, much more to Photorealism than this little article, which is meant as a primer for Museum goers to the TMA show to experience the fullness of the work.
Realism: Selections from the Martin Z. Margulies Collection. November 20, 2010 - July 17, 2011 @ Tampa Museum of Art, 120 W. Gasparilla Plaza. Admission $10.00. Museum hours: Mon, Tues, Wed, and Fri from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Thurs from 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.; and Sat and Sun from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.