Realism began in France after the 1848 revolution. This period in time saw many advances in science and technology which therefore created a growing confidence in knowledge and consequently a lack of interest in imagination. With this growing confidence in science, Realism took off and society was excited about the realities of their day instead of idealising about Romanticism. At that time, Romanticism was in movement and Realists aimed to go strictly against the ideas of Romanticism. Realists rejected emotion in painting, and focused on how the subject was formed exactly as it was in reality. They accurately and cleanly painted their subjects which were usually images of people at work or talking or everyday scenes, they were focused on what was happening in front of them rather than expressing how they view the world to be.

Gustave Courbet is one of the most celebrated artists of Realism with one of his famous works ‘Bonjour, Monsieur Courbet’ 1854. His paintings as well as other Realist painters had a realistic depth to the image, with strong colours and definition to allow the characters to have a depth of life themselves. The detail and lighting is accurate and strong with clean pathways through the image, and most importantly the subject is of an ordinary encounter about how people greet each other whereas other movements try to include a deeper meaning, realism is offering the facts about how the world acts.

However, Realism has constantly been under scrutiny about whether or not true and ordinary realism can exist, as artists can pick and choose which scenes to depict, which therefore leaves out the non-aesthetic aspects of reality which other movements try and express.  Realists also aim to reject the emotions and expression which other artists depict in their work, however, it can be argued that by simply choosing which scene to paint they are expressing an opinion about how reality should be in their eyes, therefore it will bring emotions to the viewer if they agree or disagree with the painter. This controversy in Realism also takes place in other forms of art including literature which constantly stirs controversy about whether or not the writing is a true depiction of reality.

Realism in all forms celebrates the worthiness of the ordinary person and life by making them worth painting and writing about. Whether or not Realism can truly cover all aspects of reality is still under debate; however the movement does not oppress certain images or views which is why Realism will continue in all forms to celebrate the ordinary.

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Written by Felicity Jones

Felicity Jones, studying Literature at Portsmouth University, with a passion for all things art and fashion, writer/reader/ editor/ artist/ dedicated shopper. Felicity looks after the Catwalk Yourself Art Dictionary.

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