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Realism explained with samples

Realism refers to the artistic or literary representation of things as they actually are, without idealization or exaggeration.

Realism is an artistic style that originated in France during the latter part of the 19th century, namely from 1830 to 1870. The term "realism" is derived from the Latin word "réalis," which means actual. It facilitates the shift from romanticism to impressionism. He examines the true nature of reality.

The July Revolution, which aimed to overthrow the Second Restoration, had significant consequences in the realm of art. It led to the rejection of the prevailing neoclassical traditions and the rise of realism as the dominant creative style. Neoclassicism was associated with the ancient concept of an ideal that is flawless, balanced, and measured. On the other hand, realism is defined by the intention of certain artists to depict reality without altering it. This concept can be likened to the technological advancements that occurred during the Industrial Revolution. Utilizing a methodology borrowed from the scientific approach, the artist endeavors to depict objective observations rather than academic themes. The topics addressed in such context are derived from the daily experiences of those belonging to the middle or working class. The text explores topics such as employment, marriage dynamics, and conflicts throughout society.


The three primary French artists exemplifying realism are: Camille Corot, Gustave Courbet, and Jean-François Millet. The magnitude of the 1848 revolution exerted a significant impact on the realism movement, which shifted its focus from creating art just for aesthetic purposes to creating art that served the interests of humanity. Courbet, in the 1850s, boldly asserted the concept and significance of "realism" in art, positioning himself as the foremost figure of the realist trend in painting.


The user's text is a single asterisk symbol. Jean-Baptiste Corot, born in 1796, was the son of a merchant and not initially intended for a career in painting. However, he drew inspiration from Nicolas Poussin and consistently sought inspiration from nature. Unlike the emotive nature of romanticism, Corot was indifferent to sentimentality and instead focused on depicting nature as it truly is. Gustave Courbet, born in 1819 in Ornans, attended the Besançon school. He received criticism for his peasant-like painting style. The reviewers of the period said that Courbet's painting style resembled that of a hardworking farmer plowing the fields. Courbet embraced the principles of Proudhon and actively took part in the Paris Commune. However, upon its suppression, he was compelled to seek refuge in Switzerland. Courbet is a very emblematic artist of the realism movement. Jean-François Millet, born in 1814, departed for Cherbourg at the age of 18 with the intention of acquiring skills in the art of painting. at 1837, he enrolled at the Beaux Arts. After failing to win the Prix de Rome, he departed from school and established his residence in Barbizon till his demise. Millet is renowned for his depictions of rural life.


The artist's atelier

The setting of the scene is Courbet's studio in Paris. The composition consists of three distinct elements: positioned centrally is the artist, accompanied by a naked model positioned behind him. To his right, the selected individuals, the virtuous ones; to his left, those who thrive on suffering and despair. The picture thus presents itself as an ultimate verdict. In a letter to his friend Champfleury in January 1855, Courbet described the moral and physical history of his workshop, referring to it as the first half. These individuals are the ones who assist me, endorse my concept, and actively engage in my endeavors. These individuals are the ones that embrace life and confront death. Society permeates all levels, from its highest echelons to its lowest strata, encompassing its middle class as well. Simply said, it is my perspective on society, based on its interests and emotions. My abode is where the world is depicted via painting.


A burial ceremony taking place in the town of Ornans

"A Funeral in Ornans" is a picture created by Gustave Courbet during the years 1849 and 1850. The artist, at the age of 33, produced this monumental artwork that sparked a fierce dispute when it was exhibited in the Painting Salon of 1850. Courbet's artwork was subsequently denounced for its vulgarity, with reviewers condemning his portrayal of "the unsightly," "the mundane," and "the base." The funeral at Ornans would swiftly emerge as a prominent exemplar of Realism, with Courbet assuming the role of its foremost proponent; a painter dedicated not just to Art, but also to the ideals of the Republic.


In 1850, Courbet finished A Burial at Ornans, which coincided with a crucial time in both French history and the development of modern art. In 1848, Louis-Philippe was removed from power, and the subsequent year, Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, who would later become Napoleon III, was chosen as the president of the republic.


In 1850, the Industrial Revolution was in full swing, overshadowing the spiritual ideals of the Romantics. The rapid advancements in production techniques and the emergence of a new society had diminished the popularity of Romanticism. Two distinct social classes emerge simultaneously with opposing goals: the bourgeoisie assumes a position of power and wants to enforce its political and moral ideologies, while the working class strives to articulate its grievances. Intellectuals like as Marx and Proudhon, who were friends with Courbet, started to establish the fundamental principles of the socialist philosophy. In fact, Courbet even painted a portrait of Marx in 1865. Within this particular socioeconomic milieu, artists did not always align themselves with the working class and its struggle (Courbet, for instance, only became involved in the Commune in 1871). Instead, they distanced themselves from the bourgeoisie, which shunned innovative artistic expressions. The artist who is truly innovative often chooses to separate themselves from society. In the 19th century, after the Bohemian lifestyle embraced by romantic artists, a new image emerged - that of the cursed artist. This artist no longer aligns themselves with established institutions and powers, and is only appreciated by a small group of intellectuals and artists.


Tivoli the garden

Tivoli, the gardens of the Villa d'Este is a picture executed by Jean-Baptiste Corot.


During his initial journey to Italy in December 1827, Corot paid a visit to the Villa d'Este. Subsequently, he departs, leaving behind just the outline of an incomplete perspective. During his third visit to Italy in 1843, he dedicated more time to Tivoli, engaging in activities like as drawing, note-taking, and painting. One of his paintings depicted the Cascatelles, which is now housed in the Louvre museum in Paris. Additionally, he created three paintings of the Villa d' Este, including one that provides the viewer with a perspective from the terrace.


The picture features an encompassing mood that unites its arrangement, prominently relying on the nothingness of the foreground. An recent technical analysis discovered that the little child positioned on the balustrade was intentionally included afterwards to provide significance to an otherwise skillful composition: the vertical lines created by the trees, for instance, are overlaid on the horizontal lines of the roofs and the balustrade.


The painting's color palette consists mostly of various shades of gray, with occasional subtle enhancements of local tones and sporadic accents of green from the cypresses. The observer's attention is directed through this somber realm, enhanced by the delicate interplay of illumination: beams of sunlight seen through a sequence of panels.


The subject of discussion is the Narni Bridge.

An first perception


Displayed here is a drawing rendered in oil paint, created not for public exhibition but rather to capture and retain the initial impression, as emphasized by Corot, that one must remain true to. Corot created this plein air study on his initial visit to Italy in 1826. It served as the basis for a grand landscape painting that was shown at the Salon of 1827 in Paris. The finished artwork is currently housed in the Ottawa Museum of Fine Arts. Narni is a significant urban center situated in the Roman countryside to the north of the Italian capital. "To create an appealing view of a region, sites require the use of colors and flawless execution." Corot adhered to this principle while approaching the depiction of a location that had already been explored by the artists Valenciennes and Michallon. The activities conducted at the workshop


Upon returning to the workshop, Corot proceeds to create the artwork that he plans to exhibit to the public. Subsequently, the educational curriculum becomes intertwined with the initial sensory experiences. The abrupt incline preceding the scenery transforms into an exquisite terrace, where, in accordance with custom, shepherds tend to their herds in close proximity to two umbrella trees, serving as a testament to our presence in the Roman countryside.


The gleaners

Des glaneuses, commonly misnamed Les Glaneuses, is a painting created by Jean-François Millet in 1857. It was exhibited at the Salon in the same year.


The artist depicted three impoverished ladies from the rural areas who resorted to gleaning for survival. Through a realistic approach devoid of excessive sentimentality, the painting effectively portrays the hardships endured by the rural people. The three ladies symbolize the three actions of gleaning: stooping, collecting, and rising. The labor performed by these ladies is arduous, characterized by the strain on their backs and the meager yield of their crop. However, their attire does not consist of tattered garments. The poverty, along with a distinct class division, is intensified by the conspicuous abundance of the wheat crop in the backdrop. Millet symbolizes a group of birds soaring in the skies, poised to feed on overlooked grains, much like the gleaners.


© Gerard Van Weyenbergh translated from French


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