What is Realism?

Realism is the very precise, detailed and accurate representation in art of the visual appearance of scenes and objects. Realism was an artistic movement that began in France in the 1850s, after the 1848 realism. Realists rejected , which had dominated French literature and art since the late 18th century. Realism revolted against the subject matter and exaggerated emotionalism and drama of the Romantic movement. Instead it sought to portray real and typical contemporary people and situations with truth and accuracy, and not avoiding unpleasant or sordid aspects of life. Realist works depicted people of all classes in situations that arise in ordinary life, and often reflected the changes brought by the Industrial and Commercial RevolutionsThe popularity of such 'realistic' works grew with the introduction of photography a new visual source that created a desire for people to produce representations which look objectively real.

Francois Millet

One of the first artists of this period in was Francois Millet. Although Gustave Courbet was the first to give the movement a name via one of his one-man-shows, it was Millet that probably first painted scenes from everyday life, detailed, as life truly was. In one of Millets' paintings, "The Gleaners", 1886, the painted contemporary people performing their everyday occupations, in this case gleaning grain after the harvest was completed. Millet’s art in this painting doesn't tell a story, idealize, or romanticize. He records the event just as his eye saw it.

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The Potato Harvest