Reality can be overcome, not only by soaring to the heights of poetic exaltation, but also by paying exaggerated attention to the minutest detail.
—José Ortega y Gasset, “The Dehumanization of Art”

Ortega published his essay on the dehumanization of art in 1925. I recently read it to see whether it cast any light on a problem of aesthetics that had arisen for me as the result of seeing two exhibitions in quick succession during a recent trip to Madrid. The first, in the Prado, was of the works of the seventeenth-century painter of still lifes Juan Fernández, known as El Labrador; the second, in the nearby Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, was of hiperrealismo, hyperrealism, in which were exhibited canvases of mainly American, but also British and German, artists of the photorealist school.

My...

 
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