Lesson 22: Realism in Art

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What You Will Learn:

  • Explore All Art Movements and Periods

    You will learn about all the leading art movements and periods, such as primitive art, ancient Greek art, the Renaissance, Romanticism, Impressionism, Modernism, and contemporary art. There is also a lot of attention to non-Western art, such as Islamic Art, Hindu Art, Chinese Art, Oceanic Art and African Art, and the globalization of the art world.

  • All Famous Artists and Their Masterpieces

    The course covers important artists like Sultan Muhammad, Fan Kuan, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Utagawa Hiroshige, Vincent van Gogh, Ilya Repin, Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Frida Kahlo, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Banksy and many more, and discusses their most influential works.

  • Cultural and Historical Context

    Our courses also focus on the study of the cultural, social, political, and economic contexts in which artworks are created.

  • Various Media and Techniques

    You will explore different art forms and techniques, such as painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, and digital art.

Introduction to this course:


I wish to be a disciple of none other than nature.”                                             
                                Gustave Courbet

The realist painter Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) was a socially conscious individual. He wasn’t focused on depicting beauty on his canvases, but rather, the truth. This became the foundation for a new art movement: realism in art. The true essence of things needed to be committed to canvas. For him, the era of depicting Ancient Greek and Roman images from the neoclassical period was over, as was the portrayal of overpowering nature during the Romantic era. On the contrary, through his paintings, he resisted the traditions of his time. Life had to be approached and depicted without rose-colored glasses. The real, day-to-day life of workers, bakers, shopkeepers, and working farmers became the central theme in the compositions of art realism. Reality secured its own unique place in art.

Een begrafenis in Ornans, een schilderij van de Franse realistische kunstschilder Gustave Courbet uit 1849-1850. Het toont de begrafenis in het najaar van 1848 van zijn oudoom in Ornans, de geboorteplaats van Gustave Courbet. Hij begroef met dit schilderij de Romantiek, zoals hij zelf aangaf. Het is een gewone, realistisch weergegeven begrafenis, maar in de stijl van een historisch schilderstuk. Toen hij het op de Salon in Parijs toonde, waren de kijkers geschokt.  
Locatie: Dit schilderij van Gustave Courbet hangt in het Musée d'Orsay in de Franse hoofdstad Parijs. Het schilderij is 3,1 meter hoog en 6,6 meter breed. Image: “A Burial at Ornans,” a painting by the French realist painter Gustave Courbet from 1849-1850. It depicts the funeral in the fall of 1848 of his great uncle in Ornans, Gustave Courbet’s birthplace. With this painting, as he himself stated, Courbet buried the Romantic movement. It is an ordinary, realistically depicted funeral with real people, but in the style of a historical painting. When he displayed it at the Salon in Paris, viewers were shocked. The painting measures 3.1 meters in height and 6.6 meters in width.
Location: This painting by Gustave Courbet is housed in the Musée d’Orsay in the French capital, Paris. The museum has been located in the former railway station, Gare d’Orsay, since 1986, which is situated next to the current Musée d’Orsay train station on the Quai-d’Orsay – Paris-Austerlitz railway line in the 7th arrondissement of Paris.

Gustave Courbet was inspired by the numerous revolutions in the major cities of Europe in the year 1848. The curators of the exhibitions at the Salon in Paris did not agree with him; they believed that artists should adhere to the prevailing standards of good art. They didn’t want to see poor wretches displayed on the canvases. The term “realism” has been in common use since Gustave Courbet opened an exhibition of his paintings in Paris in 1855 under the name “Le Réalisme.”

De ontmoeting ofwel `Bonjour, Monsieur Courbet' uit 1854
Image: “The Meeting,” or as it would later be called, “Bonjour, Monsieur Courbet,” from 1854 by the realist painter Gustave Courbet. The then 35-year-old traveling artist stands proudly on the right side of the image, dressed in his white shirt, holding a pilgrim’s staff, with his painting supplies on his back. Courbet depicted himself as an independent figure, feet firmly on the ground, to indicate his distinct views on realist art. On the left stands Bruyas, a wealthy art collector who, among others, paid Gustave Courbet to paint for him. This provided Courbet the opportunity to continue painting, as the Salon in Paris did not wish to exhibit his works. As was often the case, the Salon was only interested in existing and widely appreciated art movements. Innovation was not high on their exhibition agenda. Cleverly, Courbet positioned him in the center. They look at each other, suggesting an equal relationship between the two men. Behind Bruyas stands his servant Calas, with his head respectfully lowered and a plaid draped over his left arm. In the distance, a carriage leaves the scene.
Location: The painting “The Meeting” by Gustave Courbet is on display at the Musée Fabre, located at Boulevard Bonne Nouvelle 39 in the French city of Montpellier.

The Socially Critical Artist Honoré Daumier

The socially critical artist Honoré Daumier (1808-1879) developed similar ideas as Courbet, but his artworks focused more on daily urban life. He had a preference for political and satirical lithographs, watercolors, and paintings. In his works, he depicted the everyday lives of ordinary men and women. His political and social commitment is evident in all his works. He illustrates the consequences of industrialization in the mid-19th century in his art.

Het rijtuig van de derde klas, uit 1831 van de realistische Franse kunstschilder Honoré Daumier. Het geeft een goed, maar misschien wat somber beeld van het dagelijks leven van de inwoners van Frankrijk halverwege de 19de eeuw. 
Locatie: Dit schilderij van Honoré Daumier hangt in de National Gallery of Canada in de Canadese stad Ottowa.Image: “The Third-Class Carriage,” from 1831 by the realistic French painter Honoré Daumier. It provides a good, though perhaps somewhat somber, portrayal of the daily lives of the residents of France in the mid-19th century.
Location: This painting by Honoré Daumier is on display at the National Gallery of Canada in the Canadian city of Ottawa. The National Gallery of Canada is housed in a building made of glass and granite on Sussex Drive. It is Canada’s national art museum.

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