The Advent of Realism

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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 inspire spectators. Hence, Romantic artists were driven to seek even more distant locales for exotic content, or to spice their canvas with images of faraway peoples. The aftermath of the Revolution fostered a desire for a pragmatic evaluation of reality. Its failure and the successive oppressions of Napoleonic regimes had taken its eventual toll on the sensibilities of the French peoples (Clark 2002, 133). The vision of a pragmatic likeness of contemporary life preoccupied spectator and critic alike. Although the concept of reality referred to a more spontaneous or natural state, the objective quality of its style emphasised the material semblance of the observed world {House 2007}. Ironically, Romanticism grew out of an age of scientific enquiry and reason. It paralleled Realism by challenging the genre of traditional artistic theories. The ideals of a universal harmony, love of nature and unity of the human soul with mystical metaphor appealed to the widest audience {Smith 2002, 151}. The subjective element of its inexplicable energy-that Ka... ... middle of paper ... ...alist (Beaumont 2007, 108). Courbet’s Burial at Ornans, is a monumental piece of work that is more than 3 metres high and 6 metres wide. He intended its size to have a historic significance. The characters from the painting, around fifty of them, are his relatives, close friends and people of the village of Ornans {Rubin 1997, 75}. Courbet proposed to elevate the members of this group portrait (connected by common ritual) to the region of high art. The unity of time and space in their coming together to fulfil the ceremony of burial allegorized the ubiquity of death {Rubin 1997, 56}. The figures are unceremoniously without poetic meaning. Paint is laid with flat and broad strokes without an attempt to display painterly vivacity. The painting’s historical significance is colossal because it identified Courbet as an outspoken advocate of socialist aesthetics.
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