Dec 5, 2009

Who Were The Realists? (1800 - 1899)


Detail from The Birth of Venus


Jean-François Millet. The Gleaners.






Gustave Courbet, A Burial at Ornans







The 19th Century Realist Movement


The term Realism was adopted by the great French painter Gustave Courbet (1819-77) in 1855 to summarize a style of painting which emerged in France after the Revolution of 1848. This was a group of international artists in Paris during 1800-1899. It was called the positivist age. These artists started devising new methods of graphic representation. They mainly paid attention to the scientific concepts of vision and the study of optical effects of light. The Classicism and Romanticism in the academic art was collectively rejected, and necessity to introduce contemporary to art found robust support.
They believed that painters should work for life around them painting honest realistic portrayals of modern life. They painted ordinary people and everyday activities portraying their lives, customs, appearances, tribulations, and customs. They painted the middle and lower classes. The humble, ordinary, the run of the mill, the ordinary, and the embellished. The world of painting has two major groupings; Abstract and Realistic Painting. Realistic painting involves the application of mechanical aids such as photography and the abstract strictly avoids them. Realistic Painters began employing photography as a mechanical aid immediately after it's invention in the 1800's.Leonardo Da Vinci used "Camera Obscura". This is a lens and a mirror set at an angle with parchment over it to trace onto. Sort of like our modern day art projector. It has been reported that Michaelangelo used a similar technique. There is proof that artists had been tracing from Camera Obscura for thousands of years.
During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the details brought out in realistic paintings were thought to be distasteful, filthy, obscene, generally plain offensive!
The educational system of the day was openly hostile or indifferent of the new art. Artist wanting to study the new Classical realistic painting were only taught the
the doctrine of Abstraction and Expressionism.
Some of the favorite subject matter for Realist artists included: class life, scenes of street-life, cafes and night clubs, genre scenes of rural and urban working. There was an increase and honesty in the handling of the body and nudity, this rough approach stunned many of the upper and middle class patrons of the visual arts.
By the 20th century realism had proliferated to nearly all nations. Eventually the elements of realistic painting united with those of Impressionism, Symbolism, and other art movements.
A few of the artists were; Wilhelm Leibl, Edouard Manet, Hilaire Germain Edgar Degas,
Marie Rosalie Bonheur, John Singleton Copley, Gustave Courbet, Honoré Daumier, Thomas Eakins, Ignace Henri Theodore and Fantin-Latour.

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