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Realism in France . Emerges in France as a result of interest in science Empiricism—knowledge based on direct observation Positivists—philosophical school advocating for scientific approach to understanding social and natural processes

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realism in france
Realism in France
  • Emerges in France as a result of interest in science
  • Empiricism—knowledge based on direct observation
  • Positivists—philosophical school advocating for scientific approach to understanding social and natural processes
  • Realists in art—did away with myth, imaginary subjects and moved toward what was directly observed in everyday life
  • Realism comes about after the downfall of NeoClassicism and Romanticism
  • NeoClassicism=classical and mythological subjects oriented toward moral aim
  • Romanticism=explores the imagination and subjective experience, privileges raw creativity and passion
art 102 fall 2011

Art 102 Fall 2011

Realism Lecture

Jacques-Louis David. Oath of the Horatii. 1784

cultural context of realism
Cultural context of Realism
  • Marx’s Manifesto of Communist Party 1847
  • 1848 Revolution in France
    • After French revolution liberates the middle class, or bourgeoisie, everyone else remains (esp workers)
    • Advocated for the right of all to work
    • Established National Workshops for unemployed, which were closed and caused a proletariat (“blue collar”) uprising
    • Uprising is suppressed
    • New beliefs emerge about working people as a result of class conflict
definition of realism
Definition of Realism
  • An avant-garde movement that focuses on representing the everyday
  • Centers on the materiality of things, contemporary working class life, and urban and rural conflict
  • Avant-garde=military term. “To the fore.” Advocates for the political effectiveness of art. Not art for art’s sake.
  • Rejects academic art (the training in the French Royal Academy)
  • Incorporates “popular” art forms into his painting: woodcuts, prints, almanacs, songbooks. All non-elite forms
  • Saw his painting as engine of revolution, capable of enacting social change
courbet after dinner at ornans 18491
Courbet After Dinner at Ornans 1849

Large size (five feet) ususally

Reserved for history painting

Depicts people from Courbet’s own

Life, including his sleeping father

Status of subjects is unclear—could

Be bohemians (urban figures who

Rebelled against established society)

Or could be country folk

Won a gold medal in Salon 1849,

Which gave him free access to 1850


courbet after dinner at ornans 18492
Courbet After Dinner at Ornans 1849

Painting includes self-portrait of the

Artist. Courbet often used himself as a



Figures have little interaction

Status of figures is indeterminate-

Man walking pig seems to be

Bourgeois, wearing a frock coat

Man in stovepipe hat (bourgeois)

Is also wearing a smock (peasant)

Boundary between city and

Country is blurred—class issues

Exist in both spheres.

Dull colors—no fanciful nostalgia

Or romanticism

courbet stonebreakers 18491
Courbet Stonebreakers 1849

Painting destroyed or lost in Dresden in 1945

Another large painting—5.5 x 8 feet

Bodies are shown as tools or machines performing repetitive and alienated labor

Ages of workers suggest life cycle without progression


Set in Courbet’s home town of Ornans, at the new cemetery

22 feet long—painting is on scale of history painting, but the scene is generic, not worthy of

Status as a history painting. Uses scale of history painting to call attention back to the popular.

These are rural people dressed in their best—looking like bourgeois

Overall lack of color, with exception of the beadles in red.

Flat composition recalls woodcuts. Appears primitive to critics.

Rough technique—paint applied with palette knife

courbet the burial at ornans 18491
Courbet The Burial at Ornans 1849

Figures are disconnected from one


Also, not idealized. They, and the

Whole painting, seem deliberately


jean fran ois millet the sower 18501
Jean-François Millet. The Sower. 1850

Millet is a Romantic Realist—heroizes

His subject more than Courbet

Virtue and nobility of rural poverty

Still a realist based on focus on

Contemporary life and the conflict

Between urban and rural ways of life

jean francois millet the gleaners 18571
Jean Francois Millet The Gleaners 1857

Represents peasants in the act

of gleaning—gathering scraps

Of wheat after the harvest

Millet member of the Barbizon

School, other members of

Which concentrated on


Representing common peasant

Figures like this makes critics

Worry about insurrection

Monumentalizes the poor

courbet the painter s studio a real allegory 1855
Courbet The Painter's Studio-A Real Allegory 1855

This painting causes Courbet to set up Pavilion of Realism in 1955, across from

Exhibition Universelle, from which he was rejected.

Exhibition Universelle is fair that celebrates progress

11 x 20 feet

Very rough application of paint, especially on the top (swaths of brown)

courbet the painter s studio a real allegory 18551
Courbet The Painter's Studio-A Real Allegory 1855

Places landscape painting

Over history painting—nature

Still has redemptive capacity

Painting thought of as a triptych

Bohemian friends on the right

(the aesthetic world)

Political world—exploited and

Exploiters are on the left

Nude woman is muse—combined

With landscape shows a

Critical view of modernization

Rampant in Exhibition


daumier rue transnonain 18341
Daumier Rue Transnonain 1834

Famous for lithographs

Uses art for political commentary, was supporter of working class

This lithograph shows massacre by members of the guard trying to suppress demonstration

By workers