A Discussion on Realism and Impressionism
The world was changing dramatically in the late 18th century. In North America, the British colonies had successfully revolted against the English empire and formed the United States of America. Fueled by this success, Europeans began to feel a strong desire for change, most notably in France, where the search for liberty led to the bloody French Revolution, which lasted from 1788 until 1799. At the same time, populations were starting to rapidly expand, and science and technology were producing the engines and tools to make the Industrial Revolution possible. It was in this atmosphere of change that a new artistic movement was born; a movement that wanted to view the world around it in a different way. Prior to this era, works of art commonly exemplified idealized scenes from historic events, or placed the subject in larger-than-life, heroic circumstances. Artists of the new movement wanted to show life as it really existed; its triumphs as well as failures; its beauty as well as its baser attributes. These artists were a part of the new movement: Realism. As the name of the movement implies, Realism was an artistic movement toward attempting to capture the subject of the artwork in a true-to-life manner. Stated simply, realist artists sought to produce accurate and objective portrayals of the ordinary, observable world, with a focus on the lower classes and with a critique of the established social and political order (MindEdge, 2012). Considered by many to be the father of Realism is the French painter Gustave Courbet (1819 – 1877). In his life-sized depiction of two workmen he met along the roadside called The Stonebreakers (1849-50), we see the hallmarks of the Realist movement.
Not only does Courbet pay careful attention to the detail in order to “paint as he sees it”, but he treats the subject matter with almost...