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Updated: Dec 6, 2023

Continuing on our quest to unravel and demystify the different styles of art we come to Realism.

Generally defined, Realism is the attempt to represent a subject truthfully and without artificiality all the while avoiding the constrictions of art convention, as well as the use of exaggerated, exotic, supernatural or unrealistic elements. In a nut shell it’s the realistic and natural representation of people, places and objects in artwork. Realism is the polar opposite of Idealism.

Realism was an artistic movement that began in France in the 1850s and was embraced by those artists who shunned the theatrics inherent in Romanticism and did away with the formulas and techniques of Neoclassicism. These artists turned their backs on the use of exotic subject matters and the drama and emotion aspects of art at the time. Realists endeavoured to depict real and truthful people and situations and they also sought to capture the more unpleasant or sordid parts of life. Despite capturing the ‘real’ the artwork of realist artist does usually involve some form of socio-political statement or moral message.

Realism fulfilled the desire for art that was ‘objectively real’ and it shows ordinary people and ordinary situations while still being beautifully created and thought provoking. Read more at the Tate Gallery Realism page.

Well known Realists: Jean-Francois Millet, Gustave Courbet and Honoré-Victorin Daumier, Michael Zavros.

Realism Art: The Gleaners, 1857 – Jean-Francois Millet

Realism Art: V12/NARCISSUS 2009, Oil on Board, 20 x 29.5cm, Collection of Art Gallery of New South Wales

Keep an eye out too for Australia’s own Michael Zavros, winner of the first The Bvlgari Art Award in 2012 and four time finalist of the Archibald Prize.

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