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Overpainting

 

Overpainting photographs is a long established artform, as you can see from these few examples. The warhol may be the most immediately recognizable but gerhard richter is the most prolific fine artist working in this medium today and his work, third from top, is also well known. Anselm kiefer, fifth down, is better known for his abstract oil paintings. Richard hamilton is yet another contemporary artist, fourth from top, whose work in overpainted photographs is very powerful. Peter beard, bottom, and alex stenzel, second, are other artists whose work in overpainting is increasingly well known. 

We must distinguish this broad and often brutish interaction with an equally pervasive activity of manipulating photography. This is of course commonplace now, since the invention of photoshop, but even before the digital age, such manipulation was not rare. Overpainting does not attempt to disguise its impact but instead celebrates the intervention. The result, after all, is a new art piece. 

The overpainting on the press photos shown on this site begin in the former and end in the latter of these two interventions. Certainly the initial goal is to invisibly alter the original photograph so it can serve new needs of the newspaper photo editor. However, as that changed photograph lives through time and successfully separates from that intentionality, it morphs into something else altogether. We see it as it has become, unmediated by its published context, and  now it stands alone with its overpainting plain to see. And like the work of the artists on this page, it has become, unintentionally, a work of art.