Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Romantic Era (pt. 16)

As we get closer and closer to Modernism in art, a new wave of artistic style is developed called Realism.  The initial stages of Realist development in Western art history was concerned with exactly what you might think: depicting things realistically.  This is not the same as painting in the style of photorealism, which was simply a device for making images look three-dimensional and life-like.  The realistic elements of this type of art form dealt with a different worldview—not so much how one paints but what one paints.  The early Realists asserted themselves by choosing not to exclude a scene's more racy or ugly elements so that they might paint an accurate picture of the world as it truly is.  We will see this in a little while more as a shift in focus, from aristocratic to middle-class subject matter, from majestic Greco-Roman themes to images of everyday life.  One way to see it is to remember Géricault's Raft of the Medusa, in which the artist did not hold back from displaying the haggard and naked bodies of suffering men—not necessarily an image we want to see, but nonetheless an image that we can see is real.  (Of course, Géricault painted his scenes in a quintessentially Romantic way, as we saw; but the concepts for future Realist painters were set down in artworks such as that).  For now, however, the early forms of Realism combined with Romantic techniques in highly stylized images of Romantic subject matter, such as nature.

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