Realism or the Realist school and realism - The realistic and natural representation of people, places, and/or things in a work of art. The opposite of idealization. One of the common themes of postmodernism is that this popular notion of an unmediated presentation is not possible. This sense of realism is sometimes considered synonymous with naturalism.
And Realism (with an upper case "R"), also known as the Realist school, denotes a mid-nineteenth century art movement and style in which artists discarded the formulas of Neoclassicism and the theatrical drama of Romanticism to paint familiar scenes and events as they actually looked. Typically it involved some sort of sociopolitical or moral message, in the depiction of ugly or commonplace subjects.
Examples of Realism:
Honoré-Victorin Daumier (French, 1808-1879), A Criminal Case, about 1860, watercolor and bodycolor, with pen and brown ink and black chalk, 15 1/8 x 12 13/16 inches (38.5 x 32.8 cm), J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu, CA.
Honoré-Victorin Daumier, The Fugitives, about 1868-1870, oil on canvas, 15 1/4 x 27 inches, Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
Jean-François Millet (French, 1814-1875), The Angelus, 1854-1859, oil on canvas, 55.5 x 66.0 cm, Louvre, Paris. Perhaps the world's most widely recognized French painting. Millet is most associated with the Barbizon school of painters, though he is an important precursor to Realism.
Jean-François Millet, Spring, 1868-1873, oil on canvas, 33 3/4 x 43 3/4 inches (86 x 111 cm), Musée d'Orsay, Paris.
Jean-Désiré-Gustave Courbet (French, 1819-1877), Portrait of Juliette Courbet as a Sleeping Child, 1841, graphite on paper, Musée d'Orsay.
Jean-Désiré-Gustave Courbet, The Wounded Man , 1844-1854, Musée d'Orsay.
Jean-Désiré-Gustave Courbet, A Burial at Ornans, 1849-1850, oil on canvas, 10 feet 3 1/2 inches x 21 feet 9 inches (314 x 663 cm), Musée d'Orsay, Paris.
Jean-Désiré-Gustave Courbet, The Painter's Studio, A Real Allegory, 1855, oil on canvas, 11 feet 10 1/4 inches x 19 feet 7 1/2 inches (361 x 598 cm), Musée d'Orsay, Paris.
Jean-Désiré-Gustave Courbet, Woman with a Parrot, 1866, oil on canvas, 51 x 77 inches (129.5 x 195.6 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY. (On the Met's page, you can enlarge any detail.)
Jean-Désiré-Gustave Courbet, The Stormy Sea (or The Wave), 1869, oil on canvas, 3 feet 10 inches x 5 feet 3 1/2 inches (117 x 160.5 cm), Musée d'Orsay, Paris.
Rosa Bonheur (French, 1822-1899), The Horse Fair, 1853-55, oil on canvas, 96 1/4 x 199 1/2 inches (244.5 x 506.7 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY. (On the Met's page, you can enlarge any detail.) See feminism and feminist art.
Édouard Manet (French, 1832-1883), Luncheon on the Grass (Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe), 1863, oil on canvas, 81 x 101 cm, Musée d'Orsay. Also see after, gaze and Impressionism.
Édouard Manet, Olympia, 1863, oil on canvas, 51 3/8 x 74 3/4 inches (130.5 x 190 cm) Musée d'Orsay, Paris.
Édouard Manet, Boating, 1874, oil on canvas, 38 1/4 x 51 1/4 inches (97.2 x 130.2 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY. (On the Met's page, you can enlarge any detail.) This picture was painted "en plein air."
James Abbott McNeill Whistler (American, 1834-1903), Arrangement in Flesh Colour and Black: Portrait of Theodore Duret, 1883, oil on canvas, 76 1/8 x 35 3/4 inches (193.4 x 90.8 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.
Winslow Homer (American, 1836-1910), Skirmish in theWilderness, 1864, oil on canvas, New Britain Museum of Art, CT.
Winslow Homer, Prisoners from the Front, 1866, oil on canvas, 24 x 38 inches (61 x 96.5 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.
Winslow Homer, Artists Sketching in the White Mountains, 1868, oil on wood panel, 9 7/16 x 15 13/16 inches, Portland Museum of Art, ME. Here Homer documented the nineteenth century trend toward artists painting landscapes directly from nature rather than in their studios, "en plein air."
Winslow Homer, The Cotton Pickers, 1876, oil on canvas, 24 x 36 1/8 inches (61 x 91.7 cm), Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Winslow Homer, Ship's Boat, 1883, watercolor, New Britain Museum of Art, CT.
Winslow Homer, The Gulf Stream, 1899, oil on canvas, 28 1/8 x 49 1/8 inches (71.4 x 124.8 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY. See seascape.
Thomas Eakins (American, 1844-1916), The Gross Clinic, 1875, oil on canvas, 96 x 78 inches, Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA.
Thomas Pollock Anshutz (American, 1851-1912), The Ironworkers' Noontime, 1880, oil on canvas, 17 x 23 7/8 inches (43.3 x 61.2 cm), Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, CA. See social realism.
Examples of modern realism:
George Bellows (American, 1882-1925), Matinicus, 1916, oil on canvas, 32 x 40 inches, Portland Art Museum, ME. This painting depicts fish houses on Matinicus Island, Maine.
Edward Hopper (American, 1882-1967), Early Sunday Morning, 1930, oil on canvas, 35 3/16 x 60 1/4 inches (89.4 x 153 cm), Whitney Museum of American Art, NY. See American Scene painting, Ashcan school, and rectangle.
Fairfield Porter (American, 1907-1975), Wheat, 1960, oil on canvas, 33 1/2 x 33 5/8 inches, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO.
"Balthus" Count Balthasar Klossowski de Rola (French, 1908-)
Andrew Wyeth (American, 1917-), Christina's World, 1948, tempera on gessoed panel, 32 1/4 x 47 3/4 inches, Museum of Modern Art, NY. See what this house — the Olson House, Cushing, Maine — looks like today.
Philip Pearlstein (American, 1924-), Two Models on a Kilim Rug with Mirror, 1983, oil on canvas, 90 x 72 inches (228.6 x 182.9 cm), private collection. See model and nude.
Elysha _____ (American, contemporary, at 10 years old), Brown and White Dog, from Realistic to Abstract, 2005, colored pencils on paper, 6 x 18 inches. See abstraction and more children's art of this sort.
Also see faux, isms and -ism, marbling, mirror, Naturalism, photo-realism, social realism, and socialist realism.