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Styles & Periods

In the mid-19th century, a reaction against the drama of Romanticism emerged as Realism, a term coined by the French painter Gustave Courbet in 1855. Courbet and the French Barbizon painters, among them Jean-François Millet, began to focus increasingly on depicting subjects that were not conventionally regarded as having artistic value. The 19th century Realists rejected the subjectivity of the Romantics, instead seeking to capture the honest, imperfect, and often unsettling realities of life. In the lives and work of the poor, the candid behavior of everyday people, and even impartial eroticism, the Realists found a wealth of inspiration. In their attempt to create sincere art, the Realists also focused on the effects of light, and took an interest in the scientific principles that govern vision. This interest was applied in many Realist works, and the Classical precision of line and form were often eschewed in favor of methods that convey what the artist was actually seeing. These ambitions would go on to inform color theory, and are inextricably linked with the Impressionists.

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