Realism and Impressionism: Origins, Themes, and Influence
1. Origins of Realism and Impressionism
Realism is an artistic style that depicts life as it is, without any embellishments or idealizations. This approach to art emerged in the early 19th century in France, as a reaction to the romantic style that dominated at that time. The realists sought to capture the reality of the everyday life of ordinary people, often using scenes from the urban environment as their subjects. In contrast to the romantics, who favored fanciful and idealized depictions of the world, the realists wanted their art to be grounded in actuality.
The term “impressionism” was first used by art critic Louis Leroy in a review of an exhibition of paintings by Claude Monet. The show featured works completed in 1874, including a painting of the facade of the Gare Saint-Lazare in Paris. Leroy derisively dubbed this work “Impression: Sunrise”, playing on the fact that it was unfinished and giving his name to a new artistic movement. Like the realists, impressionists were interested in documenting contemporary life, but they approached this goal in a different way. Rather than painting detailed and lifelike images, they sought to capture the fleeting effects of light and color. To this end, they often worked outdoors, painting rapidly before their subjects changed too much. This distinctive approach to painting led to some criticism from more traditional artists and art critics, but it quickly gained popularity with the public.
2. Themes and Motifs in Realist and Impressionist Paintings
As mentioned above, realism developed as a reaction against romanticism, which was characterized by its idealized visions of the world. In contrast, realism sought to depict the world as it actually was, often portraying scenes from the lives of working-class people. The realists believed that art should be accessible to everyone, not just those from privileged backgrounds. As such, they favored simple subject matter and avoided using overly technical language in their work. Some famous realist painters include Gustave Courbet, Honoré Daumier, and Jean-François Millet.
While realism and impressionism both emerged in France during the late 19th century, their approaches to painting could not be more different. Impressionists were less concerned with creating realistic images than with capturing the transient effects of light and color. To this end, they often worked outdoors, painting rapidly before their subjects changed too much. This distinctive approach to painting led to some criticism from more traditional artists and art critics, but it quickly gained popularity with the public. Some well-known impressionist painters include Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Edgar Degas.
3. Influence of Realism on Impressionism and vice versa
It is impossible to overestimate the influence that these two styles had on each other. Realism paved the way for impressionism by breaking with tradition and depicting the world as it actually was rather than as it was imagined to be. In turn, impressionism provided an alternative to realism for those who found its straightforward approach too limiting. The two styles also had a profound impact on subsequent developments in art; for instance, post-impressionism would not have been possible without either realism or impressionism preceding it.
4. Modern Evaluation of these Two Artistic Styles
While both styles were once looked down upon by the art world, they are now widely appreciated for their contributions to the development of modern art. Realism and impressionism laid the foundation for many of the subsequent movements in art, and their influence can still be seen in the work of contemporary artists. Whether you prefer the straightforward approach of the realists or the more experiential style of the impressionists, there is no denying that these two schools of thought changed the course of art history.
In conclusion, it should be stated that both realism and impressionism styles in art are important and have influenced each other greatly. Nowadays they are evaluated positively and form an integral part of the history of art.