From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
'"I do not object to the latrine; hospital; and workshop vocabulary of naturalism. For one thing, the subject matter requires some such diction. Again, Zola, in L'Assommoir, has shown that a heavy-handed artist can slap words together hit-or-miss and give an effect of tremendous power. I do not really care how the naturalists maltreat language, but I do strenuously object to the earthiness of their ideas. They have made our literature the incarnation of materialism--and they glorify the democracy of art!'--Là-Bas (1891) by Joris-Karl Huysmans
Realism in the arts is generally the attempt to represent subject matter truthfully, without artificiality and avoiding speculative fiction and supernatural elements. The term is often used interchangeably with naturalism, even though these terms are not synonymous. Naturalism, as an idea relating to visual representation in Western art, seeks to depict objects with the least possible amount of distortion and is tied to the development of linear perspective and illusionism in Renaissance Europe. Realism, while predicated upon naturalistic representation and a departure from the idealization of earlier academic art, refers to a specific art historical movement that originated in France in the aftermath of the French Revolution of 1848. With artists like Gustave Courbet capitalizing on the mundane, ugly or sordid, realism was motivated by the renewed interest in the common man and the rise of leftist politics. The Realist painters rejected Romanticism, which had come to dominate French literature and art, with roots in the late 18th century.
In 19th-century Europe, Naturalism or the Naturalist school was somewhat artificially erected as a term representing a breakaway sub-movement of Realism, that attempted (not wholly successfully) to distinguish itself from its parent by its avoidance of politics and social issues, and liked to proclaim a quasi-scientific basis, playing on the sense of "naturalist" as a student of natural history, as the biological sciences were then generally known.
In general, realists render everyday characters, situations, dilemmas, and objects, all in a "true-to-life" manner. Realists tend to discard theatrical drama, lofty subjects and classical forms of art in favor of commonplace themes. The term is applied to, or used as a name for, various art movements or other groups of artists in art history. Often cited as the first realist painter is Gustave Courbet who also wrote a manifesto of realism of sorts.
Broadly defined as "the faithful representation of reality", was based on the dogma of "objective reality", and was focused on showing everyday, quotidian activities and life, primarily among the middle or lower class society, without romantic idealization or dramatization.
While the preceding romantic era was also a reaction against the values of the Industrial Revolution, realism was in its turn a reaction to romanticism, and for this reason it is also commonly derogatorily referred as "traditional" "bourgeois realism". Some writers of Victorian literature produced works of realism. The rigidities, conventions, and other limitations of "bourgeois realism," prompted in their turn the revolt later labeled as modernism; starting around the 1900, the driving motive of modernist literature was the criticism of the 19th-century bourgeois social order and world view, which was countered with an antirationalist, antirealist and antibourgeois program.
The achievement of realism in the theatre was to direct attention to the social and psychological problems of ordinary life. In its dramas, people emerge as victims of forces larger than themselves, as individuals confronted with a rapidly accelerating world. These pioneering playwrights were unafraid to present their characters as ordinary, impotent, and unable to arrive at answers to their predicaments. This type of art represents what we see with our human eyes.
Italian neorealism was a cinematic movement incorporating elements of realism that developed in post-WWII Italy. Notable Neorealists included Vittorio De Sica, Luchino Visconti, and Roberto Rossellini.
- Simulated reality
- Chanson réaliste (realist song), a style of music performed in France primarily from the 1880s until the end of World War II
- Magic realism