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Chapter Thirteen. The Working Class and the Bourgeoisie. The Conditions of Modern Life. The New Realism.

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the new realism
The New Realism
  • During the first half of the nineteenth century, Paris doubled in size, to nearly 1 million people. The gutters were so full of garbage and raw sewage that cesspools developed overnight, producing an odor that was strong enough to induce vomiting
  • By 1848, these conditions prevailed throughout the urban areas in Europe, made worse by food shortages and chaos in the agricultural economy
  • The working classes suffered the most from the miserable living conditions in cities
  • Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels believed that since the conditions in which one earns a living determined all other aspects of life—social, political, and cultural—capitalism must be eliminated because of its inherent unfairness
  • In their Communist Manifesto, they called for “the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions”
  • Their communist revolution would pit the proletariat (working class) against the bourgeoisie to achieve “the end of history” – a utopian society without classes or class struggle
  • Ironically, Marx’s later Das Kapital, a forceful critique of the effects of the free market, would become an influential factor in advancing reforms in working conditions as well as providing higher wages and greater social equality
literary realism charles dickens
Literary Realism: Charles Dickens
  • The novels of Charles Dickens illuminate the enormous inequities of class that existed in nineteenth-century England
  • While his sentimentalism sometimes verged on the maudlin, Dickens also had an unparalleled ability to vividly describe English reality
  • In depicting the lives of the English lower classes with intense sympathy and great attention to detail, Dickens became a leading creator of a new type of prose fiction, literary realism
gustave dor orange court drury lane 1869
In his earliest published book, Sketches by Boz, Dickens, writing under the pen name Boz, describes one of the worst slums in London, on Drury Lane

By the beginning of the 1800s, Drury Lane was dominated by prostitution and gin houses

In trying to make the unimaginable real, Dickens’s aim was not simply to entertain but to advocate reform

Gustave Doré,Orange Court–Drury Lane, 1869
french literary realism
French Literary Realism
  • In France, realist writers such as Honoré de Balzac and Gustave Flaubert were committed to examining life scientifically—that is, without bias—and describing it in as straightforward a manner as possible
  • In TheHuman Comedy, Balzac linked together 92 novels so that they would reflect the whole of French society. The more than 2000 characters come from all walks of life—servants, workers, clerks, criminals, intellectuals, courtesans, and prostitutes
  • Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, the story of the adulterous wife of a country doctor,is at its core a realist attack on Romantic sensibility
literary realism in the united states
Literary Realism in the United States
  • Much literature of the nineteenth century in the United States centered around the issue of slavery
  • The abolitionist movement supported both slave narratives (works written by former slaves about their lives) and works such as Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin
  • Arguably one of the greatest American novels, Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn also deals with the issue of slavery in American society. Set in the years just before the Civil War, the book is vigorously opposed to slavery and portrays those who supported it in a uniformly unflattering light
realist art
Realist Art
  • One of the leading proponents of a new realist art was Honoré Daumier, a French artist known for his political satire
  • In his focus on ordinary life, Daumier openly lampooned the idealism of both Neoclassical and Romantic art
  • Daumier’s Rue Transnonian is a direct reporting of the killings committed by government troops during an insurrection by Parisian workers in April 1834. Everyday experience was not always an attractive proposition
  • In The Third-Class Carriage, Daumier clearly illustrates his interest in the daily lives of working people
honor daumier
Honoré Daumier

Rue Transnonain, April 15, 1834

Lithograph, 11½"  17-5/8", 1834

The Third-Class Carriage

Oil on canvas, 24¾"  35½", ca. 1862

gustave courbet
Gustave Courbet
  • Undoubtedly the leading French realist painter was Gustave Courbet, a farmer’s son and a self-taught artist
  • His goal was to paint the world just as he saw it, with no additions or subtractions, no romanticizing or idealizing
  • His subject matter, the mundane and the everyday, startled and shocked his audiences, especially since he used a grand scale for such common subjects
  • In The Stonebreakers, Courbet depicts two workers pounding stones to make gravel for a road. Everything in the painting seems to be pulled down by the weight of the physical labor, and the older man and his younger assistant seem to suggest that such backbreaking work has afflicted generation after generation
gustave courbet the stonebreakers oil on canvas 5 3 8 6 1849
Gustave Courbet, The StonebreakersOil on canvas 5' 3"  8' 6", 1849

Courbet explained this work as “a complete expression of human misery.”

  • That the invention of photography coincides with the rise of realism in the arts is no coincidence
  • The scientific principles required for photography had been known in Europe since at least 1727. But while the camera could capture an image, it could not preserve it until in 1839 inventors in England and France discovered a means to fix the image
  • Pioneers of the process included William Henry Fox Talbot and Louis-Jacques M. Daguerre, who developed processes for preserving images created from exposure to light
battlefield photography
Battlefield Photography
  • Prior to the American Civil War Battle of Antietam, no American battlefield had ever been photographed before the dead were properly buried
  • In July 1863, Gardner and an assistant, Timothy O’Sullivan, shot at the site of the Battle of Gettysburg the most famous photograph to come out of the war, A Harvest of Death, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
  • Photographed images, combined with the comments of the photographers, powerfully conveyed the horrors of war
Timothy O’Sullivan and Alexander Gardner A Harvest of Death, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, July 1863Albumen silver print, 6¼"  7-13/16"
realisms characteristics
"Realisms Characteristics"

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From Realism: The Artistic Form of Truth (length: 3:12). Item #35428

charles baudelaire
Charles Baudelaire
  • The poet Charles Baudelaire recognized the bourgeois culture as his audience
  • He sought to expose their hypocrisy with his consciously shocking subjects
  • His Les Fleurs du mal (“Flowers of Evil”) was the subject of a court case for “offense to the public.” He lost the case, was fined, and was forced to remove six poems concerning lesbianism and vampirism, all of which remained censored for the next century
douard manet
Édouard Manet
  • Édouard Manet, like Baudelaire, was a flâneur, a man-about-town, strolling the city, studying it dispassionately
  • Another important trait of a flâneur, according to Baudelaire, is that he holds the bourgeoisie’s vulgar, materialistic lifestyle in contempt, and his greatest devotion is to shock them
  • Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe (Luncheon on the Grass) was a prominent feature in the Salon des Refuses—an exhibit of works rejected by the official Salon of 1863
  • The contrast between the nude female and her clothed male companions utterly confounded and dismayed audiences
douard manet olympia oil on canvas 51 74 1863
Édouard Manet, OlympiaOil on canvas, 51"  74¼", 1863

Manet used the same model for Olympia as in Le Déjeunersur l’herbe.

the politics of opera
The Politics of Opera
  • The confrontation between nationalist composers and conservative aristocracy was played out in Paris at the new Paris Opéra
  • The building itself was created to suggest a new imperial style, allowing aristocracy and bourgeoisie to display themselves and their social position and wealth
  • Italian composer Guiseppe Verdi believed that opera should be dramatically realistic. Certain changes had to be made for his opera to succeed in Paris, notably the addition of a second-act ballet
  • German composer Richard Wagner was far too unconventional and Germanic for success in Paris. Wagner’s opera Tannhauser seemed to the French to be deliberately constructed to inflame French/German hostility
impressionist paris
Impressionist Paris
  • Painting in plein air (“open air”) was a feature of a new group of painters who come to be known as the Impressionists, and most particularly of one of its founders, Claude Monet (1840-1926)
  • The present moment was the subject, and the object less important than the color
  • Each painting had to be quick, emphasizing improvisation and spontaneity as the fleeting quality of sensory experience was paramount
other impressionists
Other Impressionists
  • Monet’s work and techniques were echoed in the works of many other artists
  • Berthe Morisot and Camille Pissarro explored color, light, and vision in their paintings
  • Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas preferred to paint the crowd in the cafés and restaurants, at entertainments of all kinds, and in the countryside, to which the middle class habitually escaped on weekends via the ever-expanding railroad line
edgar degas dance class oil on canvas 32 30 ca 1874
Edgar Degas, Dance Class Oil on canvas, 32¾"  30¼", ca. 1874
  • Dance Class depicts 21 dancers awaiting their turn to be evaluated by the ballet master, a moment of great stress
  • Work is one of Degas’s primary themes
  • Almost all the young women were from lower-class families and normally entered the ballet corps at age seven or eight
the gilded age in america
The Gilded Age in America
  • New York City in the late nineteenth century was a boomtown of extraordinary diversity. In 1892, 30 percent of all millionaires in the United States lived in Manhattan and Brooklyn side by side with millions of the nation’s working-class immigrants
  • In order to allow the rapidly growing population to escape the rush and sometimes harsh conditions of urban life, in 1856, New York City hired Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux to develop a 840-acre tract in central Manhattan as a civic park
  • Modeled on the concept of the English garden, Central Park was planned to suggest leisure and grace
economic woes
Economic Woes
  • By 1890, 11 million of the nation’s 12 million families had an average annual income of $380, well below the poverty line ($380 would buy about the same as $7,600 in today’s dollars)
  • Jobs were lost and wages cut
  • Workers responded with strikes and walkouts and by beginning to organize labor unions
  • These measures were mostly unsuccessful because of the power and wealth of the corporations and their owners
the romantic self
The Romantic Self
  • In 1836, Ralph Waldo Emerson, a Unitarian minister in Concord, Massachusetts, wrote his first book, Nature, which became an intellectual beacon
  • Members of the ensuing “Transcendental Club” felt that the human spirit was possessed of a certain oneness with nature. In the direct experience of nature, the individual is united with God
  • From 1845 to 1847, Harvard-educated Henry David Thoreau lived in a small cabin on Emerson’s property at Walden Pond, practicing the individualism and self-reliance about which Emerson had written
walt whitman
Walt Whitman
  • Whitman, self-defined as “the American Poet,” revolutionized American literature, linking Romanticism, Transcendentalism, and Realism
  • His free-verse poetry made use of alliteration, assonance, and other repetitive devices, but seldom used rhyme or conventional meter
  • “Song of Myself” in Leaves of Grass represents the dynamic diversity of the American people—from immigrants to African Americans and Native Americans, from male to female, from heterosexual to homosexual
  • By the time Whitman issued his final edition of Leaves of Grass in 1892, the work had grown from 96 printed ages in the 1855 edition to 438. It was as expansive and as ever-changing as its author
the role of women
The Role of Women
  • Women had made some important gains – in education and in the development of specific “feminine” professions of nursing and teaching
  • Tensions between the genders remained high, a state embodied in Winslow Homer’s The Life Line, which depicts the strong, active male rescuing the weak, passive female
  • The painting positions women in a condition of total dependency on a man, which is precisely where the American male, in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, thought she should be
the american abroad
The American Abroad
  • With the advent of steam turbine engines, screw propellers, and steel hulls, by the end of the nineteenth century it took less than a week to cross the Atlantic, a trip that fifty years early had taken two to three weeks
  • Europe, and France in particular, appeared to offer Americans a kind of liberation from the cramped Puritan morality they found at home
  • American novelist Henry James lived much of his life in Europe. His novels, such as Portrait of a Lady and The Ambassadors, present the contrast of American innocence and European experience
  • James Abbott McNeill Whistler and John Singer Sargent were American painters who primarily lived and worked in Europe
john singer sargent the daughters of edward darley boit oil on canvas 87 3 8 87 5 8 1882
John Singer SargentThe Daughters of Edward Darley BoitOil on canvas 87-3/8"  87-5/8", 1882
  • The painting depicts the four daughters of an expatriate patrician couple in their Paris apartment
  • Henry James described this work as having “the sense of assimilated secrets”
  • On some level, the painting is a parable of the coming of age of late nineteenth-century young women
mary cassatt in the loge oil on canvas 32 by 26 1879
Mary Cassatt, In the LogeOil on canvas, 32" by 26", 1879
  • Cassatt was one of the most successful of the American expatriate painters
  • In the Loge is a witty expression of Opéra society
  • Cassatt’s woman is as active a spectator as the male across the way; she is a “modern” woman, and Cassatt celebrates her modernity