Realism Art Movement Essay Help

Realism, in the arts, the accurate, detailed, unembellished depiction of nature or of contemporary life. Realism rejects imaginative idealization in favour of a close observation of outward appearances. As such, realism in its broad sense has comprised many artistic currents in different civilizations. In the visual arts, for example, realism can be found in ancient Hellenistic Greek sculptures accurately portraying boxers and decrepit old women. The works of such 17th-century painters as Caravaggio, the Dutch genre painters, the Spanish painters José de Ribera, Diego Velázquez, and Francisco de Zurbarán, and the Le Nain brothers in France are realist in approach. The works of the 18th-century English novelists Daniel Defoe, Henry Fielding, and Tobias Smollett may also be called realistic.

Realism was not consciously adopted as an aesthetic program until the mid-19th century in France, however. Indeed, realism may be viewed as a major trend in French novels and paintings between 1850 and 1880. One of the first appearances of the term realism was in the Mercure français du XIXesiècle in 1826, in which the word is used to describe a doctrine based not upon imitating past artistic achievements but upon the truthful and accurate depiction of the models that nature and contemporary life offer the artist. The French proponents of realism were agreed in their rejection of the artificiality of both the Classicism and Romanticism of the academies and on the necessity for contemporaneity in an effective work of art. They attempted to portray the lives, appearances, problems, customs, and mores of the middle and lower classes, of the unexceptional, the ordinary, the humble, and the unadorned. Indeed, they conscientiously set themselves to reproducing all the hitherto-ignored aspects of contemporary life and society—its mental attitudes, physical settings, and material conditions.

Realism was stimulated by several intellectual developments in the first half of the 19th century. Among these were the anti-Romantic movement in Germany, with its emphasis on the common man as an artistic subject; Auguste Comte’s Positivist philosophy, in which sociology’s importance as the scientific study of society was emphasized; the rise of professional journalism, with its accurate and dispassionate recording of current events; and the development of photography, with its capability of mechanically reproducing visual appearances with extreme accuracy. All these developments stimulated interest in accurately recording contemporary life and society.


Gustave Courbet was the first artist to self-consciously proclaim and practice the realist aesthetic. After his huge canvas The Studio (1854–55) was rejected by the Exposition Universelle of 1855, the artist displayed it and other works under the label “Realism, G. Courbet” in a specially constructed pavilion. Courbet was strongly opposed to idealization in his art, and he urged other artists to instead make the commonplace and contemporary the focus of their art. He viewed the frank portrayal of scenes from everyday life as a truly democratic art. Such paintings as his Burial at Ornans (1849) and the Stone Breakers (1849), which he had exhibited in the Salon of 1850–51, had already shocked the public and critics by the frank and unadorned factuality with which they depicted humble peasants and labourers. The fact that Courbet did not glorify his peasants but presented them boldly and starkly created a violent reaction in the art world.

The style and subject matter of Courbet’s work were built on ground already broken by the painters of the Barbizon School. Théodore Rousseau, Charles-François Daubigny, Jean-François Millet, and others in the early 1830s settled in the French village of Barbizon with the aim of faithfully reproducing the local character of the landscape. Though each Barbizon painter had his own style and specific interests, they all emphasized in their works the simple and ordinary rather than the grandiose and monumental aspects of nature. They turned away from melodramatic picturesqueness and painted solid, detailed forms that were the result of close observation. In such works as The Winnower (1848), Millet was one of the first artists to portray peasant labourers with a grandeur and monumentality hitherto reserved for more important persons.

Another major French artist often associated with the realist tradition, Honoré Daumier, drew satirical caricatures of French society and politics. He found his working-class heroes and heroines and his villainous lawyers and politicians in the slums and streets of Paris. Like Courbet, he was an ardent democrat, and he used his skill as a caricaturist directly in the service of political aims. Daumier used energetic linear style, boldly accentuated realistic detail, and an almost sculptural treatment of form to criticize the immorality and ugliness he saw in French society.

Pictorial realism outside of France was perhaps best represented in the 19th century in the United States. There, Winslow Homer’s powerful and expressive paintings of marine subjects and Thomas Eakins’s portraits, boating scenes, and other works are frank, unsentimental, and acutely observed records of contemporary life.

Realism was a distinct current in 20th-century art and usually stemmed either from artists’ desire to present more honest, searching, and unidealized views of everyday life or from their attempts to use art as a vehicle for social and political criticism. The rough, sketchy, almost journalistic scenes of seamy urban life by the group of American painters known as The Eight fall into the former category. The German art movement known as the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity), on the other hand, worked in a realist style to express the cynicism and disillusionment of the post-World War I period in Germany. The Depression-era movement known as Social Realism adopted a similarly harsh and direct realism in its depictions of the injustices and evils of American society during that period.

Socialist Realism, which was the officially sponsored Marxist aesthetic in the Soviet Union from the early 1930s until that country’s dissolution in 1991, actually had little to do with realism, though it purported to be a faithful and objective mirror of life. Its “truthfulness” was required to serve the ideology and the propagandistic needs of the state. Socialist Realism generally used techniques of naturalistic idealization to create portraits of dauntless workers and engineers who were strikingly alike in both their heroic positivism and their lack of lifelike credibility.

The novel

In literature, the novelist Honoré de Balzac was the chief precursor of realism, given his attempt to create a detailed, encyclopaedic portrait of the whole range of French society in his La Comédie humaine. But a conscious program of literary realism did not appear until the 1850s, and then it was inspired by the painter Courbet’s aesthetic stance. The French journalist Champfleury, who had popularized Courbet’s painting style, transferred the latter’s theories to literature in Le Réalisme (1857). In this influential critical manifesto Champfleury asserted that the hero of a novel should be an ordinary man rather than an exceptional figure. In 1857 Gustave Flaubert’s novel Madame Bovary was published. This unrelentingly objective portrait of the bourgeois mentality, with its examination of every psychological nuance of an unhappy and adulterous middle-class wife, was both the principal masterpiece of realism and the work that established the movement on the European scene. Flaubert’s L’Éducation sentimentale (1870), with its presentation of a vast panorama of France under Louis-Philippe, was another principal realist work. The brothers Jules and Edmond Goncourt were also important realist writers. In their masterpiece, Germinie Lacerteux (1864), and in other works they covered a variety of social and occupational milieus and frankly described social relations among both the upper and the lower classes.

Realist tenets entered the mainstream of European literature during the 1860s and ’70s. Realism’s emphasis on detachment, objectivity, and accurate observation, its lucid but restrained criticism of social environment and mores, and the humane understanding that underlay its moral judgments became an integral part of the fabric of the modern novel during the height of that form’s development. Charles Dickens, Anthony Trollope, and George Eliot in England, Ivan Turgenev, Leo Tolstoy, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky in Russia, William Dean Howells in the United States, and Gottfried Keller and the early Thomas Mann in Germany all incorporated realist elements in their novels. A significant offshoot of literary realism was Naturalism, a late 19th- and early 20th-century movement that aimed at an even more faithful and unselective representation of reality. The French novelist Émile Zola was the leading exponent of Naturalism.


Realism in the theatre was a general movement in the later 19th century that steered theatrical texts and performances toward greater fidelity to real life. The realist dramatists Henrik Ibsen and August Strindberg in Scandinavia and Anton Chekhov and Maxim Gorky in Russia, among others, rejected the complex and artificial plotting of the well-made play and instead treated themes and conflicts belonging to a real, contemporary society. They dispensed with poetic language and extravagant diction, instead using action and dialogue that looked and sounded like everyday behaviour and speech. Realism had no use for the declamatory delivery and the overblown virtuosity of past acting and replaced this style with one demanding natural movements, gestures, and speech. Realist drama also used stage settings that accurately reproduced ordinary surroundings.

Motion pictures

Like 20th-century drama and literature, the art of cinema has depended heavily on the 19th-century realist tradition for thematic material and often for structure. The nature of film, however, has lent itself to a kind of realism halfway between life and fiction. Such films, called Neorealism in Italy and sometimes cinéma vérité in France, tried to achieve a documentary-like objectivity by using non-actors in leading roles and incorporating segments of actual documentary footage into the story. The post-World War II films of Roberto Rossellini (such as Open City and Paisan) and Vittorio De Sica (The Bicycle Thief) best exemplify this genre.

Though never a coherent group, Realism is recognized as the first modern movement in art, which rejected traditional forms of art, literature, and social organization as outmoded in the wake of the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution. Beginning in France in the 1840s, Realism revolutionized painting, expanding conceptions of what constituted art. Working in a chaotic era marked by revolution and widespread social change, Realist painters replaced the idealistic images and literary conceits of traditional art with real-life events, giving the margins of society similar weight to grand history paintings and allegories. Their choice to bring everyday life into their canvases was an early manifestation of the avant-garde desire to merge art and life, and their rejection of pictorial techniques, like perspective, prefigured the many twentieth-century definitions and redefinitions of modernism.

Established in 1648 by Louis XIV, the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture or Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture governed the production of art in France for nearly two centuries. Given France's prominence in European culture during that time, the Academy set standards for art across the continent, providing studio training for young talent and recognizing artistic achievement at its semi-regular Salon exhibitions.

The "highest" form of art, established by the Academy in a 1668 conference, was history painting: the large-scale depiction of a narrative, typically drawn from classical mythology, the Bible, literature, or the annals of human achievement. Only the strongest painters were allowed to paint in this genre, and their works were the most celebrated by the Academy. Descending in importance in the hierarchy of genres were portraiture (the depiction of important persons), genre scenes (the depiction of peasants, or "unimportant" persons), landscape (the depiction of living nature), and still life (nature morte, or "dead nature").

Spurred by archaeological discoveries in Greece and Italy in the mid-eighteenth century and Enlightenment ideals of reason and order, Neoclassicism became the mode par excellence for history painting in the late 1700s. Neoclassical history painting, exemplified in the work of Jacques-Louis David, used classical references, compositional techniques, and settings to comment upon contemporary events. His famous Oath of the Horatii (1784), for example, communicated the civic value of patriotism in the guise of a story from the Roman historian Livy.

In response to Neoclassicism, the Industrial Revolution, and the Enlightenment's rationalization of life and society, Romanticism embraced irrational, intense emotion and exotic subject matter as more authentic sources for artistic creativity. Rather than beautifully ordered outdoor scenes, Romantic landscapes became arenas for the sublime conflict between man and nature. In place of David's praise of civic virtue were history paintings like Eugène Delacroix's Death of Sardanapalus (1827): a turbulent, chaotic scene inspired by a Lord Byron play wherein the titular king of Assyria commands his possessions destroyed and his terrified, beseeching wives massacred in the face of final military defeat.

While Romanticism might have rejected certain tenets of Neoclassicism, it did not drastically change the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century institutions of art and society. The near-perpetual state of revolution in France in the nineteenth century provided an impetus to enact a more radical change. After the initial 1789 Revolution, France went through the First Republic, the First Empire under Napoleon Bonaparte, the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy, the 1830 Revolution, the July Monarchy, the 1848 Revolution, the Second Republic, the Second Empire, the Franco-Prussian War and institution of the Paris Commune of 1871, and the establishment of the Third Republic.

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Challenging Neoclassicism and Romanticism as escapist in the face of the larger societal issues brought by the turbulent nineteenth century, Realism began in France in the 1840s as the cultural aspect of a larger response to ever-changing governance, military occupation and economic exploitation of the colonies, and industrialization and urbanization in the cities. Realism, more than the simple representation of nature, was an attempt to situate oneself in the "real": in scientific, moral, and political certainty.

In the 1830s, this push toward scientific positivism manifested itself in the advent of photography. Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre publicly demonstrated the daguerreotype in 1839, mechanically fixing an image from nature onto a metal support by the use of a camera. Simultaneously in England, William Henry Fox Talbot accomplished the same with the calotype, which fixed the image onto paper coated with silver iodide. In turn, the photograph fueled Realism. While Realist artists rarely worked from photographs (some did), the photograph's biggest conceptual strength was its claim to veracity. If the right to rule had traditionally been supported by art that idealized the powerful, the photograph suggested the possibility to literally show rulers' real flaws. In the midst of a revolutionary century, Realist painters sought to adapt photography's truth value to their art.

Honoré Daumier and an Art of Social Critique

Another major influence on Realism was the explosion of socially critical journalism and caricature at the beginning of the July Monarchy (1830-48). Though the authoritarian reign of Louis Phillippe I would end in overthrow, the first five years of his rule allowed greater freedom of the press. It was in this moment that Honoré Daumier began publishing caricatures critical of the monarchy, such as the lithograph Gargantua (1831), in which he mockingly depicted the king as the gluttonous giant of François Rabelais's 1534 novel.

Engraving, which could be reproduced and disseminated in the press, enabled Daumier to circulate his critical compositions. Despite being imprisoned for six months for his negative depiction of the king as Gargantua, he continued to create the Realist lithograph Rue Transnonain, le 15 Avril 1834 (1834), which showed the brutal aftermath of a massacre of working-class innocents by the French government. The work was considered so powerful and dangerous to the monarchy that Louis-Philippe sent men to purchase as many copies as possible to be destroyed. Daumier would continue painting and engraving for several decades, producing socially focused works such as Third-Class Carriage (1862-64).

Gustave Courbet, the Revolutions of 1848, and the Origins of Socialism

When the July Monarchy came crashing down in France in 1848, ushering in the Second Republic (1848-51), it was as part of a larger wave of European revolution that brought wide-ranging social changes in Germany, Italy, the Austrian Empire, the Netherlands, and Poland. These events, combined with the publication of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon's The Philosophy of Poverty in 1846 and Marx and Engels's Communist Manifesto in 1848, cast a new light on the margins of society, and Realism became the visual language for their representation.

A friend of Proudhon and Realism's main proponent, Gustave Courbet led a multifaceted assault on French political power, bourgeois social mores, and the art institution. His exhibition of A Burial at Ornans (1849-50) at the Salon of 1850-51 marked the debut of Realism as a significant force in the European art scene, causing a scandal with its matter-of-fact depiction of a rural funeral on a scale traditionally reserved for allegory and history painting. The Stone Breakers (1849-50), exhibited in the same year, represented two anonymous, lower-class workers participating in poorly compensated, backbreaking labor, a scene that carried uncomfortable associations with Socialism for the Salon's middle-class audience. Young Ladies on the Banks of the Seine (Summer) (1856) caused a similar sensation at the Salon of 1857 with a frank depiction of two prostitutes lazily reclining on a riverbank with their garments in disarray that offended bourgeois taste.

Concepts and Styles

Challenging the Norm and Courting Scandal: Courbet and Manet

If in the 1850s Courbet painted large works with subject matter that questioned the values of French society, Édouard Manet pushed Realism even further in the 1860s. Having made a name for himself at the Salon of 1861 with his exhibition of The Spanish Singer (1860), he submitted Le déjeuner sur l'herbe (1863) to the Salon of 1863. Though the painting was rejected, it was shown in the Salon des Refuses ("Exhibition of Rejects"). There, Manet's frank depiction of two young dandies dining in a forest with a fully nude woman offended the sensibilities of its salon-going audience, especially middle-class men who participated in exactly those sorts of dalliances with Parisian prostitutes and who did not like to be reminded of this when out at art exhibitions, potentially with their families. Manet built upon and fed into all of these scandalous charges when he submitted Olympia (1863) to the Salon of 1865. Olympia, which places the viewer in the position of a bordello visitor attempting to procure a disinterested prostitute, made Manet's intervention even more obvious.

The critics, however, were playing directly into Courbet's and Manet's hands: the notoriety they commanded from their works was intentional, turning them into celebrities within the art world. Beside muddying the traditional categories and subjects of academic painting, Courbet, and Manet in his turn, would challenge the state art institution itself. When three of his fourteen submissions to the Exposition Universelle of 1855 were rejected for size considerations, Courbet rented space adjacent to the Exposition to construct his own Pavilion of Realism, in which he housed forty of his own works for free public view. When Manet was excluded from the Exposition Universelle of 1867, he too exhibited independently. Beyond drawing attention away from government exhibitions and creating publicity for their work, Courbet's and Manet's interventions emboldened future artists (most notably the Impressionists of the following generation) to exhibit their art independently.

Realism's Visual Revolution

While the Realist painters' manipulation of controversy through their subject matter is an obvious manifestation of their anti-authoritarian goals, their technical innovations may be less obvious to eyes conditioned by 150 years of modern art. At the time, however, the artistic distance between a canvas by Courbet and a traditional history painting were obvious and confrontational.

When Courbet debuted The Stone Breakers, critics accused him of purposeful ugliness and complained of the "flatness" of his composition, which was enhanced by the bold outlines surrounding his two key figures. A year later, his painting Young Ladies of the Village (1851-52) was attacked as clumsy, lacking in correct perspective, and disregarding scale in its portrayal of a trio of women who dwarf the cattle that stand near them. Eleven years later, Manet's painting Le déjeuner sur l'herbe was attacked on nearly the same grounds, with critics commenting negatively on Manet's coarseness of paint handling, the flatness of his composition, and the stark, contoured whiteness of his female figure. When critics correctly connected Manet's composition of the three-person figural group to High Renaissance works by Marcantonio Raimondi and Giorgione, their outrage heightened at his indecorous treatment of the Old Masters.

The follow-up exhibition of Olympia (coarser, flatter, more starkly contoured, and based on Titian's Venus of Urbino (1538)) proved that these manipulations to traditional academic painting were not the mistakes of a young, clumsy artist. Unwittingly, the critics had stumbled onto what would become the groundbreaking visual achievement of Realism: Courbet and Manet each made an artistic choice to move away from the Renaissance conception of a canvas as a "window onto the world" toward a flatness that revealed the canvas as a two-dimensional support to be creatively covered with pigment. This first step away from painting as a mere representational format was a crucible for generations of modern artists and a major reason for the continued popularity of Realism today. While Courbet was outspoken in his conviction that art could never be wholly abstract, his and Manet's nontraditional painting empowered future artists to move further away from the direct pursuit of naturalism.

The Ennobled Peasant: Jean-François Millet, Rosa Bonheur and Jules Breton

Despite Courbet's insistence that socialism informed his Realist painting, not every Realist artist pursued his political goals. They did, however, share an interest in the life of the lower class and desire to represent it in high art. Jean-François Millet completed a trio of works, The Sower (1850), The Gleaners (1857), and The Angelus (1857-59), that represented the hard work of the rural peasant class with dignity, but with a less confrontational air than Courbet's canvases. The female painter Rosa Bonheur, whose progressive-minded parents allowed her to study animal anatomy in barns and slaughterhouses at a young age (while dressed as a boy!), first achieved fame for Plowing in the Nivernais (1848), a government-commissioned painting that depicts four farmhands driving steer to plow a field. As it was thought to reference a scene from George Sand's La Mare au Diable, this early example of Realism was spared the criticism cast on Courbet's large works. The Horse Fair (1852-55) further demonstrated her focus on blue-collar work and her ability to create dynamic compositions through close observation.

However, even Millet's seemingly innocuous celebration of France's rural backbone was received as potentially dangerous socialist content by conservative critics in the wake of the 1848 Revolution, which granted greater rights to provincial men. Jules Breton's paintings were considered a safer alternative, and has been referred to as "popular Realism." Breton's The Gleaners (1854) depicts the same practice as Millet's painting, wherein poor rural women are allowed to pick up bits of grain left behind after the harvest. However, Breton imagined the scene as one happening within a strict order: despite gleaning being "women's work," a man with a dog dominates the scene, overseeing the fieldwork. A steeple on the horizon would have communicated both the pious nature and Christian values of the peasantry as well as another form of governance to Parisians concerned about the growing equality they shared with their rural counterparts.

Realism Outside of France

Though Realism was first a French phenomenon, it obtained adherents across Europe and in the United States. The American James Abbott McNeill Whistler befriended Courbet in the 1860s and painted in a Realist style. Yet Whistler was an advocate for "art for art's sake" and rejected the idea of painting as a moral or social enterprise a la Courbet. Nonetheless, his Symphony in White, no. 1: the White Girl caused controversy at the same Salon of 1863 where Manet courted scandal, because critics argued that it contained connotations of a bride's lost innocence.

Thomas Eakins became the United States' most prominent Realist painter, integrating photographic study into his works and revealing the character of his subjects through close observation. The Gross Clinic (1875), a portrait of the doctor Samuel Gross performing invasive surgery in an operating theater is rendered in unflinching detail. His choice of a contemporary subject (modern surgery) follows the Realist belief that an artist must be of his own time.

The German Realist Wilhelm Leibl met Courbet and saw his work when the French painter visited Germany in 1869. Recognizing his abilities, Courbet lured him back to Paris, where Leibl achieved considerable success, also meeting Manet before returning to Munich to establish himself as his country's premier Realist painter. He is best known for his images of peasant scenes such as Three Women in Church (1881), which brought the frank naturalism of the Dutch and German Old Masters into the modern era. Though the somewhat dated outfits that the three women wear indicate their low economic status (the new trends of the city have passed them by), Leibl ennobles them in their patience and humility.

The Realist Ilya Repin was the most prominent painter of his country in the nineteenth century, responsible for bringing Russian visual art to the attention of European audiences. His large canvas Barge Haulers on the Volga (1870-73) celebrated the strength of Russia's lowest-ranking physical laborers. The novelist Leo Tolstoy would write of Repin that he depicted "the life of the people much better than any other Russian artist." Having traveled to Paris and become aware of the nascent movement of Impressionism, Repin chose to continue painting in a Realist vein, because he felt that Impressionist painting lacked the social motivations necessary to modern art.

Realism in Literature

The Realist painting movement ran parallel to the Realist movement in literature, exemplified in the work of writers like Honore de Balzac, Champfleury, and Emile Zola. Realist authors recognized in the artistic movement the shared desire to divorce from tradition and celebrated it, contributing to its success. Balzac's witty and incisive representation of society in the early nineteenth century contrasted with the emotional grandeur of his Romantic counterparts much as Courbet's painting would in the visual arts.

Champfleury promoted Courbet's work as early as 1848, continuing to do so for decades, and Courbet painted him among his supporters in the 1855 masterwork The Painter's Studio (1854-55). Of Courbet's Pavilion of Realism, Champfleury wrote: "It is an incredibly audacious act, it is the subversion of all institutions associated with the jury, it is a direct appeal to the public, some are saying it is freedom."

Zola was one of Manet's earliest and most devoted defenders, recognizing his importance to modern art and declaring him a master of the future. By 1868, Zola could write: "I don't need to plead for modern subjects here. This cause was won a long time ago. After those remarkable works by Manet and Courbet, no one would dare now say that the present day is unworthy of being painted."

Further Developments

There was no defined "group" in Realism, as we might conceive of the later Impressionists as a coherent group who exhibited together: the Realist movement comprised of a number of artists working independently among similar lines. Though they knew each other, and the artists and writers were mutually supportive friends, there was no "breakup" or dissolution of the group. Thus, the historical and artistic motives that led to Realism's genesis and development continued in the art and ethos of painters across the globe for generations to come.

As the enfants terribles of the nineteenth-century art world, Courbet and Manet are often invoked as the first avant-garde artists, and their mixture of art and critique laid groundwork for every socially engaged artist in their wake. Moreover, their visual trajectory into flatness had widespread ramifications for painting without which Manet's next step into Impressionism could not have happened. Their use of contour lines to structure form and separate it into panes of color were also an inspiration to the Post-ImpressionistPaul Cézanne and his followers, as well as the Cubists Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque.

Even artists with drastically different goals than Realism named their debt to the movement. Giorgio de Chirico, the head of the Metaphysical art movement, wrote about his reverence for Courbet, who he acknowledged as an artistic father figure. Surrealism founder André Breton would celebrate Courbet's mixing of the artistic with the political; Surrealist dissident Georges Bataille named Manet the father of modern art for being the first to "destroy" the subject of painting, in Olympia.

The Ashcan School of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century in the U.S. derived from the sometimes gritty, matter-of-fact depiction of city life was partially based on the figurative language and social awareness of Realism. Similarly, Social Realism, less an art movement than a cultural phenomenon, took Realism's relation to social justice as a given and made figurative works to combat the abstract art in vogue in the early twentieth century. The Mexican muralists, American art workers in Depression-era New Deal programs, and French and German painters in the years leading up to World War II worked in this mode to create straightforward, legible works to transmit messages to their audiences. Social Realism should not be confused with Socialist Realism, decreed by Joseph Stalin as the state art of the Soviet Union in 1934. Though both shared a commitment to the education and edification of a lower-class, uneducated populace, the Soviet variant - a visual mélange of Repin's Realism and a sunnier Impressionism - became an official, academic art, supporting the regime and remaining largely unchanged until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

In Weimar Germany (1918-33), the artists of Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) took lessons from the matter-of-factness of Leibl's Realist canvases to move beyond the distortions and abstraction of German Expressionism. Photorealism in the 1960s was born of a similar relationship to Abstract Expressionism, and though its artists did not always share the social motivations of Realism (preferring to link themselves to the example of contemporary Pop art, also a figurative language), their debt to the movement is visually apparent.

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