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Realism painting: depicting the real world

Realism painting: depicting the real world

In the world of art, there are various currents and styles, each of which has had a special impact on the development and evolution of art. One of these currents is realism painting, which tries to create a real feeling experience for the audience by using a careful focus on details and allegorizing reality in painting.
The art of painting throughout history has always been an image of human concerns, beliefs, and experiences. In each period, artists based on their creativity and skill have created new styles that expressed the spirit of their time. One of the most important artistic styles in painting is realism painting, which appeared in the middle of the 19th century and created a revolution in the world of painting.
Realism painting, in contrast to the styles of romanticism and idealism, which focused on exaggerating beauty and emotions, sought to depict the objective reality without veiling, and realist painters took their subjects from the daily lives of ordinary people, working classes, and The laborers as well as the social and political issues of their time chose. In this article, we are going to introduce this art style, its history, and famous artists.

In the video below, get to know the style of realism and its paintings

The history of the emergence of realism painting

The roots of realism painting can be traced back to the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Perhaps the older origin of the realist style can be found in the paintings of the 17th century in Holland. At that time, painters like Rembrandt and Vermeer created realistic works of people’s daily life.
However, realism emerged as a coherent artistic movement in France in the mid-19th century. In this period, with the occurrence of the Industrial Revolution and social and economic developments, a trend towards realism emerged in various fields of culture and art.
Realist painters sought to depict the real world, without exaggeration and idealism. They believed that art should be a reflection of the reality of society, as it is, and deal with people’s issues and problems. The early core of this movement arose in reaction to the Romantic movement, which emphasized emotion and imagination. It can be said that realist painters tried to depict the social and political realities of their time and used painting as a tool to criticize society.

Gustave Courbet, the father of realism painting

Gustave Courbet, a French painter, is known as the father of realism painting. He was one of the pioneers of this movement, in opposition to romanticism, he wanted to depict objective reality. Courbet’s paintings, such as “Stonebreakers” and “Funeral at Ornan”, were criticized for their frank and sometimes violent realism. But despite this, realism quickly spread throughout Europe and other parts of the world, and realist painters in different countries, according to their social and cultural conditions, created realistic works of people’s lives, nature, and historical events.
Some other famous realist painters include:
• Jean-Francois Millet (France)
• Edouard Manet (France)
Ilya Repin (Russia)
• Thomas Eakins (USA)
In the middle of the 20th century, realism painting gradually gave way to newer styles such as impressionism and post-impressionism. However, realism as an important approach to painting continues to this day and many painters are inspired by it.

Effects of realism painting

Realism painting had a deep impact on the art of painting and other fields. Some of these effects are:

1. Tendency towards realism: Realism pushed painting towards accurate and unbiased reflection of the real world. This caused the painting to move away from the idealistic and fantasy aspects and to be closer to the concrete realities of life.
2. Paying attention to social issues: Realist painters used their art as a tool to criticize society and depict social issues and problems, increasing public awareness of current social and political issues.
3. Technical developments: Realism contributed to the development of painting techniques, such as the use of light and shadow to create depth and volume, as well as the use of earthy and realistic colors.
4. Emergence of later movements: This style paved the way for the emergence of later movements in painting such as Impressionism and post-impressionism. These movements used realism as a starting point for discoveries in painting.
5. Increasing visual literacy: Realism painting, by accurately portraying details, was effective in increasing viewers’ visual literacy and accuracy in observing their surroundings.

All in all, realism painting as an important artistic movement played a key role in the evolution of art as well as other artistic and cultural fields. Its effects continue to this day and this style is still known as one of the most important artistic movements in history.

Important books to learn more about realism

“Realism” by Linda Nochlin

In this book, Linda Knocklin explores the evolution and history of realism painting from the 19th century to the present day. He analyzes prominent painters and their works and examines the effects of this movement in art.

“Realism (Movements in Modern Art)” by Kerstin Stremmel

In Realism (Movements in Modern Art), Kirsten Stremmel provides a broader survey of realist painting, including its effects on world art. He deals with the history, techniques, and themes of this movement and analyzes its role in the evolution of art.

“Realism in the Age of Impressionism: Painting and the Politics of Time” by Martin Young

In this book, Martin Young examines the relationship between realism and impressionism painting. He examines the political and social effects of these two currents on each other and the role of time in this process.
These books are just a few examples of useful resources in the field of realism painting, and by reading them, enthusiasts can gain a deeper understanding of this artistic movement.

Famous paintings in the realism painting style

In realism painting, there are many prominent painters and well-known works who have tried to depict reality accurately and beautifully. Below are some examples of famous works of painters who worked in this style.

Funeral at Ornan by Gustave Courbet (1849)

This painting depicts the funeral of a man in a French village. The Funeral at Ornan caused a lot of controversy in its time due to its realistic depiction of death, as well as the presence of ordinary people in the painting.

Olympia by Edouard Manet (1863)


This painting depicts a naked woman with a black maid next to her. Olympia caused a lot of buzz and attention in its time due to its explicit portrayal of nudity and its bold view of sexuality.


The Duckling by Jean-Francois Millet (1857)


This painting depicts three women gathering the remaining wheat ears in a field. Marghabi Ban was praised in his time for his realistic portrayal of rural life and also for dealing with a social issue.


Stonebreakers by Gustave Courbet (1849)


In Stone Crushers, Courbet depicts two men crushing stones on the side of the road. Stonecutters is an example of realistic style paintings due to the realistic cut of the work of the workers and also because of the treatment of the people.



Real painting reminds us that the real world is also full of beauty and elegance. This style encourages us to look at the world around us with a more detailed and deeper view and identify realistic images.

Due to its realism, social criticism and strong techniques, this style has played a key role in the history of art and continues to influence emerging artists eager to discover.


Resources for further study


Realism art

Realism Art Movement: History, Artists, Artwork

What is Realism in Art? Definition, Artists, & Examples

Realism Art | Definition, Movement & Artists

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