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By medium: realism in film - realism in literature - realism in the visual arts

Realism in the visual arts can refer to specific art movements (e.g. Social realism or Russian socialist realism) as well as verisimilitude (photographic realism such as Vermeer). In fiction it refers to verisimilitude (whether or not a story is believable).

In Western art and literature, realism generally denotes a mid-19th century French cultural movement, characterized by the rejection of the allegories, mythologies and fantasies of academic art in favour of rendering subjects realistically for aesthetic or political reasons. It is closely related to Modernism and the development of the social and natural sciences. [Apr 2006]

The most distinguishing feature of Modernism revolves around the concept of realism: on one hand a rejection of photographic realism which was typical of academic art (e.g. Jean-Léon Gérôme) and on the other hand an embrace of social realism (the rejection of allegorical and symbolical representation of Romanticism and academic art). [May 2006]

Related: authenticity - everyday life - genre painting - mimesis - modern art - Modernism - modern novel - Platonic realism - photorealism - rationalism - reality - representation - verisimilitude

Literary realists: Honoré de Balzac - Gustave Flaubert - Charles Dickens

In modern art: Olympia (1865) - Édouard Manet

Art movements: Gustave Courbet - social realism - Naturalism - Neorealism

In 19th century France “Millet, Daumier and Courbet were politically motivated and set about attacking social order through their art” [Apr 2006]

Contrast: irrealism - irrationalism - mythology - fantasy - fiction - surrealism - suspension of disbelief

Realism (cultural movement)

In the visual arts and literature, realism is a mid-19th century movement, which started in France. The realists sought to render everyday characters, situations, dilemmas, and events; all in an "accurate" (or realistic) manner. Realism began as a reaction to romanticism, in which subjects were treated idealistically. Realists tended to discard theatrical drama and classical forms of art to depict commonplace or 'realistic' themes.

See also: Gustave Courbet, Edouard Manet, Winslow Homer, Barbizon school, fantastic realism, art film. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Realism_%28arts%29 [Aug 2005]

Realism in the arts

I started working on the realism in the visual arts and realism in literature pages after reading an 1960 essay by W. F. Hermans entitled antipathetic fictional characters (Dutch title: 'Antipathieke romanpersonages'). The concept of realism in the arts is a very complex one. It differs from field to field. Generally, these differences can be divided in issues of content and issues of style. Realism in the visual arts can refer the way a subject is depicted (life-like as opposed to fantastical) or to the choice of subject matter (everyday life as opposed to mythology). In literature it can refer to verisimilitude or to a 19th century European movement centered in France.

The introduction of realism in fiction and art parallels the development of modernism.

The main problem with realism is its link with reality. Reality often supersedes fiction as far as incredulity concerns. An audience may object to fiction claiming it is not 'realistic'. But reality is often more unbelievable than fiction. If somebody would have made a film speculating on the Holocaust, nobody would have thought that it was 'realistic'. Open any newspaper on any given day and you will read stories nobody would believe in a fictional story. [Apr 2006]

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