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From Realism to Naturalism in Nineteenth Century American Painting Eakins, Homer, Peto, Anshutz, and The Ash Can School scanned from American Visions (1997) by Robert Hughes. Realism :
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Eakins, Homer, Peto, Anshutz,
and The Ash Can School
scanned from American Visions (1997) by Robert Hughes
Realism in American art and literature was a mid to late nineteenth century response to the Romantic idealism which had dominated American letters until the Civil War.
Realists emphasized the importance of seeing the actual world, of focussing on the social conditions and cultural mores of contemporary life. Realists sought a new objectivity with which they could record the phenomena of life with scientific detachment and meticulous care. The artist tried to avoid allowing his own subjective impressions into their presentation of the characters and action of his narratives. The realists sought to depict society with the precision of the physical sciences.
Naturalism was an extreme form of realism in literature which rejected abstract or metaphysical conceptions of human nature in its thoroughly deterministic emphasis upon the law of cause and effect.
Naturalism explored the causal relationship between the social environment and the human character.
Social Science was a logical extension of the scientific method as applied to society. Positivism took a strictly empirical approach to the analysis of social problems. Empiricists use inductive, not deductive reasoning, and they insist upon the verifiability of all conclusions. Positivists reject metaphysical conceptions of reality and sought to discover the principles which govern human relations through reason alone.
August Comte (1798-1857: a French philosopher who took a purely scientific approach to his analysis of history and society
Henry T. Buckle (1821-1862): a English historian and statistician who analyzed the variation in human cultures as the product of differing climates, soils and foods.