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What Is Realism Art?

Emerging in the aftermath of the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution, Realism is perhaps the first modern art movement, rejecting conventional forms of art, literature, and social organization as obsolete. 

Beginning in the 1840s in France, Realism fundamentally changed painting by broadening the definition of art. Realist painters worked in a turbulent era marked by revolution and profound social change. 

They changed art by replacing conventional art’s idealized ideas and literary conceits with real-life happenings, giving society's margins the same weight as great history paintings and allegories. 

Realism Art Definition

Realism is defined as a nineteenth-century art movement. It is characterized by everyday subjects painted from everyday life in a naturalistic way. Realism can refer to both the specific art movement that introduced this style of painting and the contemporary style of hyper-realistic paintings that mimic photographs.

What does realism in art mean?

Realism typically refers to the original mid-nineteenth-century artistic movement dominated by subjects painted in a natural way depicting everyday life. 

However, the term realism may also be used to indicate artworks painted in a realistic, almost photographic fashion. These newer contemporary styles of realism typically fall into either the modern hyperrealism or photorealism movements.

What is an example of realism in art?

In the arts, realism portrays nature or contemporary life that is realistic, detailed, and unembellished. In favor of a thorough examination of visible appearances, realism opposes imaginative idealization. 

As a result, realism has encompassed a wide range of aesthetic currents across cultures in its broadest sense. In the visual arts, elements of realism can be traced back to ancient Hellenistic Greek artworks depicting frail older women and boxers. 

Realism was one of the first modern art movements which challenged the existing notion that art only depicted, or was created for, the wealthiest and most influential people in society.

While this approach is common in contemporary artworks, it was a new concept when it first emerged. Previously artists had painted subjects such as idealized religious scenes, mythical creatures, and flattering idealized portraits. These typically focused on only upper-class subjects and were not painted entirely from life.

What artist is known for realism?

Realist painters employed average laborers and common people in ordinary settings engaged in actual occupations as themes for depicting real life. Gustave Courbet, Jean-François Millet, Honoré Daumier, and Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot were among the art movement’s most prominent painters.

What are the three most influential works of art from realism?

There are many different examples of influential artworks from the realism art movement. Three works of particular significance include:

Olympia by Wdouard Manet, 1863

Despite eventually being labeled and widely known as an Impressionist, Edouard Manet regarded himself as a Realist. Olympia is one of Manet’s pioneering works, and it is considered one of the most significant realism painting classics. 

NightHawks by Edwar Hopper 1942

Edward Hopper is perhaps most recognized for his paintings which showed the loneliness of modern-day life. These artworks compel viewers to participate more actively in completing artworks' narratives. 

NightHawks, which depicts customers in a late-night downtown diner, was influenced by a restaurant on Greenwich Avenue in the artist's Manhattan neighborhood.

Burial at Ornans by Gustave Courbet 1850

The subject matter of the artwork generated a stir when A Burial At Ornans was initially shown at the 1850–51 Paris Salon. It is the small town funeral of Gustave Courbet's great-uncle in the little French village of Ornans as depicted in this artwork. "The very folks who had been involved at the burial, all the villagers," said Courbet. 

What is the main goal of realism?

Realism arose in nineteenth-century France as a reaction to romanticism. Realism's fundamental purpose was to represent reality as it truly is – to portray real, everyday people, their problems, and situations as precisely and authentically as possible. 

Realists did not shy away from the darker areas of life or human nature. The realist’s goal is to portray the benefits and drawbacks of ordinary living while maintaining the authentic essence of life. The overall idea is anti-prejudice, idealism, and romanticism in art, emphasizing a more realistic viewpoint.

Realism Art Renaissance

The Renaissance was a period of classical learning rediscovery. This rediscovery had an impact on philosophy, education, and society, as well as painting and art sculpture in particular. 

During this time, artists began to focus on realism in their work. Renaissance artists created new painting techniques to produce more realistic paintings. While these paintings looked more realistic, they are distinct from the realism movement.

Renaissance artists created art in a new approach that attempted to portray reality rather than comical characters and drawings to capture the essence of the period. 

These new techniques distinguished paintings from those created throughout the Middle Ages. Artists captured more vivid ordinary situations and biblical stories than ever before. Realism took this one step further several centuries later.

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