Art Styles: Naturalism & Realism

snap the whip realim paintingRealism is defined by the accurate, unembellished, and detailed depiction of nature or contemporary life. The movement prefers an observation of physical appearance rather than imagination or idealization. Realism in the visual arts is the depiction of subjects as they appear in everyday life, without embellishment or interpretation. The term also describes works of art which, in revealing a truth, may emphasize the ugly or sordid. Realism often refers to the artistic movement, which began in France in the 1850s. The popularity of realism grew with the introduction of photography, a new visual source that created a desire for people to produce things that look “objectively real”. Realists positioned themselves against romanticism, a genre dominating French literature and artwork in the late 18th and early 19th century. Undistorted by personal bias, Realism believed in the ideology of objective reality and revolted against exaggerated emotionalism. Truth and accuracy became the goals of many Realists.

Realist artists chose subjects from everyday life around them. Often we see in their paintings images of some the poorer members of society. Before this, such subjects had been deliberately overlooked by many artists. Great American Realist artists include Winslow Homer (his painting "Snap the Whip" is show above) and James Whistler.

The realists were a group of international artists in Paris which begin to devise new methods of pictorial representation. They were focused on scientific concepts of vision and the study of optical effects of light. The Realists express both a taste for democracy and rejection of the inherent old artistic tradition. The Realists felt that painters should work from the life round them. Indisputable honest, the Realists desecrated rules of artistic propriety with their new realistic portrayals of modern life. Famous Realists artists from this group included John Singleton Copley, Gustave Courbet, Edgar Degas and Edouard Manet.

Fallen Monarchs" by William Bliss Baker a prime example of Naturalism style of artBarbizon School was a group of French landscape artists formed outside the Academy. They were named after the Forest of Fonteblau near the village of Barbizon where they got away from the revolutionary Paris to produce their art. Artists such as Pierre-Etienne-Théodore Rousseau. attempted to paint nature directly. Constable who pioneered in making landscape painting a faithful depiction of nature was their model.

Naturalism, a term widely used in the nineteenth century, was employed by novelists, artists, and art critics as a synonym for realism. But, in fact, naturalism was a much more complex term. Naturalism is a type of art that pays attention to very accurate and precise details, and portrays things as they are. One example of Naturalism is the artwork of American artist William Bliss Baker, whose landscape paintings (shown above is "Fallen Monarchs" ) are considered some of the best examples of the naturalist movement. Another example is the French Albert Charpin, from the Barbizon School, with his paintings of sheep in their natural settings. An important part of the naturalist movement was its Darwinian perspective of life and its view of the futility of man up against the forces of nature.

Some writers restrict the terms "Naturalism" and "Realism" for use as labels for period styles of the middle and late nineteenth century in Europe and America, thus making available the terms "naturalism" and "realism," all lowercase, for tendencies of art of any period so long as the works strive for an accurate representation of the visible world. All art is conventional, but artists following the tendency "naturalism" profess a belief in the importance of producing works that mimic the visible world as closely as possible. Thus, "Naturalism" is tied to time and place, whereas "naturalism" is timeless.

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