August Kleinzahler at the London Review of Books:
Estes is identified with the photorealist school of painting. With their glossy, often hard finish, an almost enamelled quality, and photographic degree of verisimilitude, his work looks at home in that context. But it might be more useful to compare his pictures with those of the veduta painters of the 17th and 18th centuries, with Vermeer’s View of Delft and The Little Street, or the views of Venice by Canaletto and the Guardis. The Smithsonian exhibition includes two canvases of Venice from 1980, View towards La Salute, Venice and Accademia, Venice, that are reminiscent of 18th-century Venetian painters even if they show the buildings of the city reflected, multiplied and distorted by the glass windows of vaporetto stops. Piranesi’s detailed etchings of Rome – The Colosseum, for instance – seem a probable influence but Estes, who is most definite about his likes and especially his dislikes (Pop art is ‘silly’), regards drawings, etchings and lithographs as ‘incomplete’ because they are not coloured. As for his interest in reflection, it seems to have been ignited by the pictures he saw at the National Gallery during his travels as a young artist: small Turner watercolours ‘with distorted reflections in windows – or mirrors perhaps’, Van Eyck’s The Arnolfini Portrait, in which the mirror behind the couple reflects two figures at the door and The Rokeby Venus by Velásquez, in which she admires her own reflection in a mirror – all these pictures, Estes says, ‘seemed to open up a lot of possibilities for painting’.