Realism emerged as an alternative to Romanticism, which had dominated French literature and art from the late 18th century. As the themes of their paintings, realist artists frequently represented everyday laborers and ordinary people in ordinary settings engaged in actual tasks. The subjects of these painters were often seen with a sense of dramatic tension, acting out their situations before our eyes. Although some critics have argued that there is no such thing as absolute reality, others believe that the true-to-life images created by the realists are more accurate than those of their romantic predecessors or successors.
Realism has been criticized for its lack of imagination, but this tendency can be seen as a virtue. The desire for truthfulness in representation means that realist artists cannot avoid including elements of reality in their works. This allows them to show us scenes that would otherwise be impossible to paint because they involve people doing unusual things (for example, a man weeping) or places that do not exist in ordinary life (forinstance, a desert).
The realist movement first appeared in France around 1750. Its leading artist was Jacques-Louis David who is now considered the father of modern history painting. Other notable realists include Nicolas-Edme Rameau, Jean Baptiste Greuze, Joseph Vernet, and Pierre-Paul Prud'hon.
Realism rebelled against the Romantic movement's exotic subject matter, heightened emotionalism, and drama. Realist painters frequently represented average laborers and ordinary people in ordinary settings engaged in actual occupations as topics for their paintings, in favor of images of real life. They also included scenes from history and literature as subjects for their works.
Romanticism had a profound influence on realism. The early Romantics such as Goya and Reynolds painted idealized subjects inspired by ancient mythology and poetry. But as art movements evolved, they became more self-conscious and sought to define themselves apart from others. Realism and Romanticism were both important influences on twentieth-century artists like Picasso and Cezanne, who combined the two styles in their work.
During the Renaissance, artists began to represent reality rather than myth or fiction. Painters such as Giotto and Duccio documented everyday Italian life with accuracy and precision. However, it wasn't until later that realism took shape as an independent style. In 17th-century Holland, genre scenes by artists like Jacob van Ruisdael and David Teniers the Younger depicted rural life in the Netherlands with a level of detail and naturalness never before seen.
In the 18th century, French artists developed realism into a distinct style. Using ideas from Dutch painting and Rome Opera, French artists wanted to show the world as it is rather than as imagined by poets or philosophers.
Realism was a French aesthetic trend that originated in the 1840s, during the time of the 1848 Revolution. The Realists were opposed to Romanticism, which had dominated French literature and art from the early nineteenth century. The movement's goal was to focus on unidealized themes and occurrences that had previously been shunned in art. Critics have given many different explanations for why realism became popular at this time. Some say that it is because artists and writers of the day wanted to represent reality as they saw it, rather than fantasize about ideal worlds like their predecessors. Others say that it is because of a need for authenticity in literature and the visual arts; people wanted to know what life was really like outside the palace halls or gilded rooms of wealthy patrons. Still others point to the rise of industrialization as reason enough by itself for the popularity of realism. Many artists began to work for newspapers or magazines, which required them to paint what they saw around them.
The Realists were especially interested in painting scenes that weren't necessarily "beautiful" but that captured reality as accurately as possible. This often involved showing objects where attention should be paid to detail rather than trying to express emotion with just colors. For example, an artist might choose to paint a flower rather than an abstract idea of a flower. These paintings are considered realistic because they don't pretend to tell a story nor do they attempt to capture the spirit of something intangible such as love or hope.
Following the 1848 Revolution, an artistic trend known as realism emerged in France in the 1850s. The Realists revolted against the exotic subject matter and heightened emotionalism of Romanticism, which had dominated French literature and art from the late 18th century. Instead, they sought to represent reality as it was actually lived, with all its pain, struggle, and beauty.
Realism has many forms, but it usually involves a rejection of sentimentality and idealization as well as an emphasis on social realism over aestheticism. Modern artists who have been associated with realism include Gustave Courbet, Edgar Degas, Jean-François Millet, Édouard Manet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, and William Turner.
The term "realism" was first used by a group of French artists and writers in a review called La Revue de Paris that was published between 1855 and 1857. However, modern realism can be traced back to the work of Sir Joshua Reynolds, whose paintings and writings on art criticism helped to establish certain characteristics of realistic representation. These include attention to detail, accuracy, and truthfulness. Reynolds also advocated for simplicity and unity in composition.
In addition to these concerns about visual representation, the Realists were also interested in exploring how society affects individuals.
The movement originated in response to Romanticism, which had dominated French literature and art since the late 1800s. Realists rejected idealized images and instead sought to represent reality as it is. They did so by using ordinary people, objects, and scenes rather than by relying on evidence of greatness or tragedy.
Realism took many forms but usually involved a rejection of the supernatural, dreams, and other illusions that had predominated in French art up until that time. Artists such as Gustave Courtois, Jean-François Millet, and Édouard Manet are often cited as key figures in the movement's development. Although they lived in different parts of Europe, these artists were all friends or colleagues and they shared ideas about contemporary life that had an impact on their work.
Courtois was one of the first realists. He painted scenes from daily life including working-class people, markets, and restaurants. His work foreshadowed the social commentary of later realists such as Manet.
Millet was another important realist. He painted scenes from rural France including farmers at work and animals living in poverty.