Realistic art What is it? Features and characteristics

Realism is a form of expression in which the basic impressions of reality are retained, in addition to relating and interpreting the reality that is hidden under the appearance of things. Realist art is considered that style of art that tries to represent and expose themes that are in accordance with empirical and secular rules, that is, this style of art represents works in which its contents can be explained by natural causes and that there is no kind of divine or supernatural participation. It is for this reason that realistic art is considered a very objective reality for both the artist and the person who observes such work and therefore lacks any idealistic conclusion or any form of beautification.

Realism arises after the French revolution of 1848 and lasts until approximately 1870. Disenchantment with revolutionary failures causes art to abandon political issues and focus on social issues. Chronologically, this movement follows Romanticism.

Characteristics of realistic art

  • It was a historical movement that aspires to offer a true and objective representation of the sensible world.
  • He opposes everything artificial and indeterminate and translates reality as the only truth of man and the world, without false representations.
  • The preferred subjects are portraits, in their natural attitude, without studied poses, people at work, outdoors.
  • The artists are fundamentally based on observation and capture not only the beautiful, but also the ugly and revolting.
  • Things are described with precision and objectivity, artists represent things as they are, as they are seen and as they are known.
  • It is a style that reflects historical reality and that does not copy mythological, religious or allegorical objects, leaving aside supernatural, magical themes and focused on more current themes.
  • They are faithful to detail, a characteristic that differentiates it from romantic romanticizing glorification.
  • Its concentration on the essential and typical features of the characters, situations and actions distinguishes it from the reflection of reality in a naturalistic or photographic sense.
  • The goal of realism is not beauty, but truth, and therefore knowledge of reality.
  • Realism opens up new and diverse paths of expression, which will end up in other movements, such as Naturalism, which is nothing more than an exaggerated or extreme Realism.

Types of realism

Pictorial Realism: It was an artistic trend that developed in the mid-19th century and reached its maximum splendor in France. It is characterized in that the artists put aside the supernatural themes and focused on more common themes such as everyday life.

Socialist Realism: It was an aesthetic trend whose purpose was to bring the ideals of communism to the field of art. Generated in the Soviet Union in the 1930s until 1991. Its goal is to exalt the common worker as something admirable.

Realistic art reflected in ancient and prehistoric art

As the vast majority of us know, the first artistic representations arose in prehistory. In these representations you could see the opposition between abstraction and idealization, but what stood out most in the works of art they found was the so impressive realism that for many years they doubted the works found in the Altamira caves.

However, Greek art defined this type of art as a constant search between beauty, harmony and proportion that surpassed any real trait of human beings. For this reason, in the 5th century, Hellenism appeared, characterized by the search for representations of daily life, of people of different ages, among other things, and with it came the Roman art that developed what we know today as a portrait.

Realistic art reflected in medieval art and modern art

This style of art can be seen reflected in the Romanesque plastic discipline, like the Byzantine, which had influences from early Christian art. All these styles of art are related to realism because they were in search of defining and perfecting the features of the saints. On the other hand, the Gothic plastic sought the humanization of the figures and tried to reflect in them the tenderness and pain that characterized human beings.

The baroque was considered realistic too, not only for the representation of poverty and pain but also for the representations of other types of feelings such as glory or even triumph. But it was in the 18th century when a different style of baroque art appeared than the one that existed at the time, that style was called late art and with this type of art it contrasted with classicism.

Realist art in the contemporary age

This type of art denominated as a completely realistic art was related in France in the 19th century as the opposition of the excessive emotions that romanticism represented and with it was reflected in the realistic works a tireless search for true precision. The most prominent themes of this type of art in the contemporary age were not the theme types such as medievalism, exoticism or orientalism, but rather themes that spoke of the conflicts that existed at that time, of the daily life of people and especially of the social classes that at that time were.

Thanks to scientific and technological advances, photography was introduced into this style of art as a new discipline. In addition, other realistic disciplines such as hyperrealism and pop art also emerged in the 20th century .

Realistic painters and their works

In painting they highlighted:

  • Gustave Courbet:  born in 1819, in Ornans, his   paintings raised enormous controversy for his selection of vulgar themes such asA Burial in Ornans(1849), where the way of seeing reality appears clearly, creating a bleak picture and by his pragmatic ideas about art. it is a bleak picture. One of his most significant works, which denote the author’s way of being, is El Taller (1855).
  • Camille Corot : born in 1796, Belonging to a family of merchants, in his youth he began in the trade of draper. He was one of the greatest painters of the landscape, being a very important influence for the impressionists. In addition to the landscape, he also practiced the human figure, so part of his private work focused on making portraits of friends and family and genre scenes. One of his outstanding works was Le Petit Berger .
  • Jean-François Millet : was  born in 1841-1875, was the son of poor peasants, was one of the highest representatives of the Barbizón School. He distinguished himself as a landscaper, but in his landscapes he never forgets the peasant, humble, downcast, pessimistic and redeemed by work. He is the best interpreter of peasant life and of the hunger and misery that it brings. He represented the situation in which he lived as it was, shaped reality. His most characteristic works are Los Gavilladores, El Ángelus, Los canteros, La seamstress, La colada and Las espigadoras, The Angelus, The Woodcutter’s Death.
  • Honoré Daumier: born in 1808, his works show a critical and satirical style. He looks at society and certain social groups, putting himself on the side of the disadvantaged. Some of his themes evoke the world of marginalization such as Los presos and Los mendigos. Some of his most outstanding works are The Third Class Wagon, which vindicates the hard life of the popular classes in big cities and The Girls’ Bath, where the characters are women who bathe in the Seine, in the heart of the city.
  • Jules Breton:  born in 1827, the son of a peasant, he was orphaned by his mother with only four years old, being raised by his father and his  maternal grandmother who instilled in him love for his land, making this love the most important part of all his life, and that was reflected in his painting, offering us on his canvases an idyllic vision of the environment in which he grew up. Outstanding works we have Misery and Despair in 1848 and Hunger in 1849, but these two paintings were destroyed.

 

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