This Isn’t a Photo; It’s a Painting. Spy These Hyperrealistic Cityscapes by Christian Marsh

Jun 28, 2016 1:01AM

Like many of us, Christian Marsh enjoys traveling. Yet he returns from cities across Europe and the United States not only with photographs, but with the intention of transforming those images into astonishingly detailed, hyperrealistic oil paintings.

Marsh concentrates on cityscapes, seeking out iconic architecture and spectacular views in cities like London, Paris, Venice, New York, and San Francisco, but also the relatively out-of-the-way or unexpected places that capture a distinct urban spirit.

Wandering through parks, streets, and public spaces, he keeps an eye out for telling details and perfect views, taking photographs all the while. Working from these photographs, he builds up painted images from rich layers of pigment. The completed mid- to large-scale works represent composite views, since each painting is based on a number of different photographs.

Light is key. His keen eye is attuned to each city’s particular luminosity, which he aims to replicate as precisely as possible. Inner-City Tranquility, for instance, emphasizes New York’s hazy light. The San Remo’s dazzling double towers anchor the scene of boaters on a lake framed by fall foliage. Central Park is ablaze with afternoon light, its reflections turning the water yellow, red, and fiery orange.

The crisper light of London takes over Nelson’s View, a scene of the iconic Trafalgar Square from the vantage of Nelson’s Column. One of the square’s fountains dominates the foreground, while, in the middle ground, a loose band of citizens relax on benches.

People populate most of Marsh’s paintings, but not just as formal devices; they are integral to his compositions. He sees them as introducing subtle narratives as they live out lives stilled for a brief moment by a brush.

—Karen Kedmey

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