Antonio E. Gonzalez IV

Instructor Marc Unger HUM2230 Ref: 254773 July 13th , 2007

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Research Paper Abstract

For this paper I will be discussing “Realism” as my subject. “Realism, in art, the movement of the mid-19th cent. formed in reaction against the severely academic production of the French school. Realist painters sought to portray what they saw without idealizing it, choosing their subjects from the commonplaces of everyday life. Major realists included Gustave Courbet, J. F. Millet, and Honore Daumier. In a broader sense the term is applied to an unembellished rendering of natural forms.

In recent years realism has come to mean the presentation of forms and materials that are simply themselves, not primarily representations of things that already exist. ”(1) I will be attempting to provide the reader with a general understanding of what “Realism” is. As well as providing the reader with enough information about my subject that they feel well informed and knowledgeable about the different aspects of “Realism”. Different aspects such as, what influences did it have, show examples of paintings, as well as how Realism is used in the literary and musical arts.

What is Real?

Can someone depict art in a realist fashion? Yes. “Realism (art and literature), in art and literature, an attempt to describe human behavior and surroundings or to represent figures and objects exactly as they act or appear in life. Attempts at realism have been made periodically throughout history in all the arts; the term is, however, generally restricted to a movement that began in the mid-19th century, in reaction to the highly subjective approach of romanticism. The difference between realism and naturalism is harder to define, however, and the two terms are often used interchangeably.

The distinction lies in the fact that realism is concerned directly with what is absorbed by the senses; naturalism, a term more properly applied to literature, attempts to apply scientific theories to art. ”(2) “The earliest Realist work began to appear in the 18th century, in a reaction to the excesses of Romanticism and Neoclassicism ....... But the great Realist era was the middle of the 19th century, as artists became disillusioned with the artifice of the Salons and the influence of the Academy. ”(3) As the term may imply, the aim of Realism is to show actual events not fantasy or make believe.

The people behind the Realism movement were living in the moment. They did not dwell on past events much like previous art movements had done. The Realists If you are always looking and dwelling on the past, before you know it your whole life could go by and not realize it. This is one reason why the realists preferred to show art in real time, not by painting pictures of past events. Realism can also thank Photography for becoming an influential part of the whole movement. Photography is not the only way to capture images of the Realistic era. Paintings by artists such as John Singleton Copley show us the beginning workings of Realism art.

If you look at John Singleton Copley's Watson and the Shark, 1778, you notice that there is a lot of thing going on. Various uses of colors make it look very realistic. Even though that the thought of being nude in the water and quite possibly the diner of a near by shark may seem far fetched it is portrayed in a very realistic way. One guy is trying to fight back the shark, two men are trying to pull the guy out of the water and then there are also a few other people aboard the ship in a panicking fashion trying to keep the others in the ship.

The looks on their faces show a sense of urgency adding to the dramatic effect of the scene. All of this adds up to show the viewer quite a realistic scene. This wasn't just a painting, but a painting of an event that actually took place. [pic] The painting is showing the people in a real time event. John Singleton Copley payed very close attention to detail as did other artists in the Realism era. Realism as a movement stretched further than just art. It also can be seen in Literary works as well. The books and other literary works kept with the Realistic approach of not exaggerating the truth or creating a fantasy.

The characters in the novels and other books are often portrayed as people that you may have known or even be similar to yourself in some way. The writers focused more on the characters and their surroundings instead of the plot it self. One writer named Mark Twain was a profound Realism writer. One of his works The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is a story about a kid named Tom Sawyer who he and his friend Huckleberry Finn in their very realistic lives. They are much like most young boys. These normal boys just happen to be witness to a murder that takes place.

I won't say much more cause I think this story is worth reading for yourself. Mark Twain as well as other realist writers payed very close attention to even the smallest details. It is the characters themselves that make writings such as this appealing. This world wouldn't really be realistic without any sound. Verismo Opera was a popular music form in the Realism era. “Verismo, is an artistic movement that flourished in Italian literature and opera during the late 1800's and early 1900's. The word verismo is Italian for realism. The writers and opera composers of the Verismo movement sought to present life with objective realism.

Their plots were drawn from life, usually of the lower classes. Writers used direct language, explicit descriptions, and naturalistic dialogue. ” (4) Realism was not confined to only the late eighteen and early nineteenth centuries. Realism can also be seen in everyday events as well as in some music produced in our current era. The Realism foundations in art and literature can be seen almost daily if you pay attention. Realism of the twenty-first century in the form of “sitcoms” or “reality tv” shows demonstrate some of the concepts of the early realism movement.

In television shows such as Seinfeld depicts a group of friends that simply exist. There is no elaborate setting or plots. The show gains its popularity through the characters themselves instead of having some great adventure or unrealistic event take place. Another example of modern day realism in television is the show Friends. Another example of realism is modern day photography. “In general terms, a medium-technique like oil paint or pastel. Photography is the art of using and manipulating the camera and film to produce unique images of reality or formal abstractions.

The subject and the stylistic or aesthetic intentions of the photographer will determine the "type" of photography. Creative photography is a photographic print or a slide, in which the photographer intentionally manipulates the camera and the development process, to produce an original and unique work of art. Journalistic Photography or Photo journalism is the making of photographs or slides for the printed news page. If the slide is a photograph meant to be reproduced in books, magazines, or newspapers, or a slide of such a photograph, it is a Journalistic photograph or slide.

Documentary Photography is photography that responds to social activities or social problems that are particularly pressing to the photographer. Unless, the slide depicts a particular social activity meant to be documented as such by the photographer, the slide should be identified as a Center Activity or Program. ”(5) These are some examples of how photography could be used. Photography can be combined with literature. A good example of this would be in the very newspapers that people read everyday. Newspapers try to depict a vivid picture of something that has taken place in society.

To make all this more realistic, they may add pictures captured by photography to depict the story accurately as possible. Realism was not a pointless movement. It was to try and make people realize what was really going on in the world around them. According to Janetta Rebold Benton and Robert DiYanni in Arts and Culture: An Introduction to The Humanities, “Realism is the term used to describe a development in the arts in which many artists tried to convey in a non idealized way the realities of modern life.

The artist's role was no longer simply to reveal the beautiful and sublime, but to open the public eyes to the world around them, not just its grandeur but its brute reality as well. In Realist art and literature, the aim is to tell the truth, not to be true to some higher, perfect ideal. Ordinary events and objects were, to the Realists, as interesting as heroes or the the grand events of history. Increasingly, after the revolution of 1789, it was no longer the aristocracy who made history, but the ordinary working class people. And so it was to the lives of the working class that Realist art turns for its inspiration. (6) “In Lyons in 1831, silk workers had gone on strike for better wages. The situation fomented for three years until, in 1834, strikers fought police and national troops in a six-day battle that resulted in hundreds of deaths. A few days later, Louis-Philippe suspended publication of a radical newspaper and arrested the leaders of the working-class Society of the Rights of Man. In protest, workers again took to the streets, battling with government troops invaded an apartment building from which, they claimed, shots had been fired. ”

(6) In response to all that was taking place from the political stand point artists, writers, photographers and musicians tried to depict true picture for everyone to see. The paintings portrayed real life and not a spiritual story or royal non-ordinary life. The writers wrote not about make believe fantasies and mythical creatures, but even when using fiction, told us of stories that could be true. Ones that were easy to imagine as real events. The photographers made it so that people could get literally a clear picture of events and nature around them.

The musicians and singers sang and played music so one could almost feel the reality of what they were singing about. All of these different individuals and groups of people show how important it is to really understand what is around them. To not always look at the past, but also whats going on in the here and now. Works Cited Page [1] 1) Realism. " Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia. Columbia University Press. 12 Jul. 2007.


  • [1] http://www. reference. com/browse/columbia/realism1
  • [2] ) "Realism (art and literature)," Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2007 http://encarta. msn. com 1997-2007 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved. ”
  • [3] 1) “Artists by Movement: Realism Mid-19th Century” Artclopedia 7/11/2007 2) http://www. artcyclopedia. com/history/realism. html
  • [4] 1) “Verismo” World Book Encyclopedia and Learning Resources 7/11/2007 2) http://www. orldbook. com/wb/Article? id=ar747185&st=verismo+opera
  • [5] “CHICANO VISUAL ART DIGITAL COLLECTION GLOSSARY” California Ethnic and Multicultural Archives, 7/12/2007 http://cemaweb. library. ucsb. edu/taxonomy. html
  • [6] Janetta Rebold Benton and Robert DiYanni in Arts and Culture: An Introduction to The Humanities 2nd Edition. New Jersey, Pearson Education Inc. 2005