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The Advent Of Realism Essay

1158 words - 5 pages

In the late 19th Century, Realism became popular, by challenging many of the ideals and spiritual themes of Romantic painting. The late 19th Century was also a period of intense political instability in Europe and an epoch of major economic and social development in England. The movement grew in prominence, predominantly because of its opposition to the classical model of staid hypothetical modes of representation taught in the academies (Clark 2002, 134). The ideals of Romanticism had failed to appeal to the new breed of visionaries, who wanted more than intangibles, whether in art or literature. The passion, drama and mystery, inherent in Romantic paintings also failed to continuously ...view middle of the document...

This dualistic enigma demanded of the artist an impartial rendering of objective reality. Yet this relationship was never a simple one.

Realism eventuated in France as a crucial concept in painting and literature in the 1830’s. It was a form that was established on direct observation of natural and social realities rather than an art that was subjectively influenced by external realities {Beaumont 2007, 105}. It was not defined by set theories other than the adherence to a faithful reproduction of the material world. The representation of the ideal world became secondary or non-existent, while realism gained credibility and widespread acceptance. The universal idea of a shared reality, common to all regardless of rank or position democratised the movement, associating it with individual rights and personal independence {Rubin 2007}. While Romanticism was characterised by a yearning for a transcendent utopia, Realists saw this loneliness and wanderlust as an escape from the sobering realities of the material world.

The works of John Constable exemplified Romanticism’s connection with the natural world. His scientific depiction of landscapes painted accurately and with feeling inspired the painters of the French Barbizon School of Painting. The Barbizon school of painters lived in isolation away from Parisian city distractions and focused largely on the painting of landscapes {Beard 2007}. They painted outdoors, creating memorable images of simple peasant life. Expressing a disinterest in all themes classical, the school of Barbizon painters refrained from the expansive eloquence of Romanticism in their collective works. Their preference for down to earth subject matter, without Romantic metaphor or subjectivism belied their Romantic stance of isolation. Rousseau’s Landscape with Boatman, bears the influence of Constable’s sweeping expanse of sky over water with a lone figure in the foreground. The only trace of Romantic sentiment in the painting is that it is a scene from the Barbizon area where Rousseau lived all his life. The painting is smaller and less detailed, showing an appreciation for the countryside instead of the social lives of the local people. Rousseau’s meticulous attention to faithful rendering of light and shade earned him the reputation of a forerunner to impression {Beard 2007}.

Theodore Rousseau was influenced by his close friend, Jean-Francois Millet, who also did not achieve critical recognition at the start of his career. Millet, who was a late comer to the Barbizon Group, eventually became its most renowned member. His sketches in black conté crayon were a testimony to his...

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