Realism

1850 - 1880

Truth, accuracy, and the absence of personal bias

Realism was a historical movement that had a profound influence on the literature and figurative arts of Europe. The most systematic and coherent form evolved in France during the revolutions of 1830 and 1848. It reached its peak during the Second Empire (1852-70) and began to wane in the 1870s. In many different forms, and in varying measures of intensity. Realism spread throughout Europe, from the Russia of Alexander II to the Britain of Queen Victoria, from the Germany of William I to the Italy of the Risorgimento, and from the Hapsburg empire to Scandinavia and countries beyond Europe. The year 1855 was significant in the establishment of Realism in Europe. It was the year in which Gustave Courbet (1819-77) exhibited his work in Paris in the Pavilion du Realisme, a building that he himself paid for. He exhibited about forty paintings, including A Burial at Ornans and The Painter’s Studio, which had been refused by the jury of the Exposition Universelle, who instead hailed the work of more traditional masters such as Ingres. In the same vear as Courbet’s provocative debut, the painters of the Barbizon School showed their art for the first time in a public exhibition. In 1855, the Italian Realist painters, who later became known as the Macchiaioli, met up regularly in the Caffe Michelangelo in Florence. In the field of criticism, the novelist and critic Edmond Duranty published a magazine, Le Realisme, which became the principal organ of the movement between 1856 and 1857. In Le Realisme, published by Champfleury in 1857, the same year that Flaubert’s Madame Bovary appeared, no single definition of reality was proposed and no attempt was made to represent a fixed world, as in the daguerreotypes of the period. Instead, the world was seen as fluctuating and mobile and composed of complex elements and contradictions, qualities that were central to the Realist mode of expression.

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Realism: Artists

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Realism: Artworks

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