John De Andrea
Biography of American Photorealist Sculptor.

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For details of the origins and
development of the plastic arts
see: History of Sculpture.

John De Andrea (b.1941)

One of the top 20th century sculptors in the field of photorealism, (hyperrealism, superrealism) and Pop Art, the American artist John De Andrea - like his compatriots Duane Hanson (1925-96) and Carole Feuerman (b.1945) - is famous for his human figures, all typically cast from life and realistic down to the last detail, except that De Andrea specializes in female nudes. He is also associated with the Verism School of Art. Influenced by Classical Greek figures, De Andrea's best known sculpture includes: Couple (1971, Georges Pompidou Center, Paris); Artist and Model (1976, Denver Art Museum); Model in Repose (1981, National Gallery of Modern Art Edinburgh); and Linda (1983, Denver Art Museum). He is one of the most popular of contemporary American sculptors. Other artists who helped to popularize the photorealist movement in America, include: the scene painter Richard Estes (1932) and the portraitist Chuck Close (b.1940).

For a list of the world's top 100
3-D artworks, by the best sculptors
in the history of art, see:
Greatest Sculptures Ever.

Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010)
Anthony Caro (1924-2013)
Jean Tinguely (1925-1991)
Sol LeWitt (1928-2007)
Donald Judd (1928-94)
Mark Di Suvero (b.1933)
Richard Serra (b.1939)
Bruce Naumann (b.1941)

For a list of sculptors like
John De Andrea, see:
Modern Artists.

Important Sculpture

Model in Repose (1981)
Typical photorealist statue by Andrea.
National Galleries of Scotland

For a list of the world's most
talented 3-D artists, see:
Greatest Sculptors.

Early Life

John De Andrea was born in Denver, Colorado. After taking a degree in fine art at the University of Colorado (1962-5), he was awarded an art scholarship to the University of New Mexico (1966-8). It was during this period in New Mexico that De Andrea first turned seriously to plastic art after seeing a friend casting fiberglass to make a kayak. While still in Albuquerque, he started producing fiberglass casts of body parts. He quickly moved to full form figures, cast from life. Associated with the Pop Art movement, these signature works would in time gain him worldwide recognition.


De Andrea's incredibly realistic nude sculptures - in effect a modernistic form of trompe l'oeil art - are rendered in minute detail. He works with polyvinyl materials and blended latex acrylic paint to give his figures a life-like flesh tone. Initially he used wigs, but he developed a technique to individually implant hairs on the scalp and across the body, which allowed him to use real hair for the scalp, brows and pubic area, applying a few strands at a time. The polychrome skin is given realistic features like moles, scars, veins, and any pressure marks that clothing might have left when the model was being covered with the initial plaster resin.



Usually the viewer's first reaction to De Andrea’s work is shock at seeing a naked person in the decorous space of museum or gallery. However, there is more to De Andrea's sculptures than superficial shock tactics. The fact that he casts his models direct from life ensures that every stretch mark, flaw and birthmark is recorded in the plastic and paint. His models are not idealized art but instead reflect the antique traditions of Greek sculpture in their classical poses. In Brunette Sitting on Table (1973, Hoffman collection, Chicago), a young woman sits casually on the edge of a table, dangling her feet, her hands crossed carelessly in front of her. Her unconcerned attitude separates her from the viewer, transforming her from a real person into an object to examine. In Artist and Model (1976, Denver Art Museum), the artist is standing, his clothes and hands are covered in plaster. He stares at a seated figure of a nude woman who is half-encased in plaster. This scene layers illusion on illusion and plays on the age-old myth of Pygmalion, in which an artist dreams that his sculpture of the ideal woman comes alive.


The sort of realism De Andrea applies to his work is called photorealism, hyperrealism or superrealism: a style which began in the mid 1960s in America, as an outgrowth of Pop Art. The first generation of American Photorealists included painters like Richard Estes, Howard Kanovitz, Ralph Goings, Chuck Close, Audrey Flack, Charles Bell, Don Eddy, Robert Bechtle and Tom Blackwell. Like Pop-Artists, Photorealists rejected elitism and wanted to appeal to broad popular tastes. Although Photorealism is associated with painting, both De Andrea and Duane Hanson were included in the group for their application of paint to create real-life impressions. Earlier artists who acted as pioneers in this sculptural process included the plaster sculptor George Segal (1924-2000) and the Pop Artist Claes Oldenburg (b.1929), both of whom created wax models which were early influences in this area. Most Photorealist sculpture is cast directly from human figures, a process used by Segal, although he used plaster instead of fibreglass. John De Andrea and Duane Hanson are also associated with Verism - the artistic preference for contemporary everyday subject matter instead of heroic or legendary stories of the past.

Note About Sculpture Appreciation
To learn how to evaluate contemporary figurative sculptors like John De Andrea, see: How to Appreciate Modern Sculpture. For earlier works, please see: How to Appreciate Sculpture.

Works and Collections

Other popular figurative sculptures by De Andrea include: Mary Asleep (1974 Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson); Woman on Stool (1976, University of Virgina Art Museum); Allegory: After Courbet (1988, Art Gallery of Western Australia) and Tara (2002, Seavest Collection of Contemporary Realism).

De Andrea's work is represented in some of the best art museums across America. The Denver Art Museum has two of his sculptures, Linda (1983) and Clothed Artist and Model. Linda however is only ever on view for short periods of time, as she is made of polyvinyl, a kind of plastic that breaks down chemically over time, which requires her to spend most of her time off view in a controlled environment. Other museums with works by De Andrea include:

- Bayly Art Museum, University of Virginia, Charlottesville
- Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, NY
- J. B. Speed Art Museum, Louisville
- Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
- Portland Art Museum, Oregon
- Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, Scotland
- Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond
- National Museum of Modern Art, Pompidou Centre, Paris
- Neue Galerie Stadt Aachen, Aachen, Germany

John De Andrea continues to live and work in Denver, Colorado.

• For more about the history and styles of plastic art, see: Homepage.
• For more about contemporary sculpture, see: Contemporary Art.

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