Essay: Realism, Impressionism, and Postimpressionism

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Realism and Impressionism

In general, the Realist and Impressionist schools of art sought to move away from idealist schools that represented allegory and figurative ideals. Idealism was basically Platonic in that artists sought to substantiate the perfection of forms that were held in the mind away from the reality of the world. Realist and Impressionist art were based on much experimentation of such as color and light.

It would be difficult to say that any period of art was without attention to experiment in color and light or even in technique. Hence the similarity in styles of school of art would be that they all dealt with ways of rendering color and light, in ways that were often influence by advances in technique at the time.

It is in subject matter where perhaps the greatest difference in styles can be seen. During the Renaissance period artists often drew income from either, in Europe, the Catholic Church, or the royal courts of Kings and Queens. Under the Church their subject matter was usually images of the Bible, such as Madonna figures. The Realist Schools such as illustrated by Courbet, rendered paintings of the people, peasants or the working class at work, or play. The Impressionist school continued this kind of subject, often painting the leisure class at play, such as the paintings of Seurat. The Impressionists produced many paintings of the working class and they often rendered deep psychological insights such as found in the work of Van Gogh. The Impressionists also did a lot of paintings of outdoor scenes. The paintings could be said to be psychological to the extent that they often represented the artists inner interpretations of the natural scene, Edouard Manet in his the Luncheon on the Grass. Claude Monet Impression, Sunrise.

The rise of positivism drawing out from the Age of Enlightenment. Positivism from such thinkers as Auguste Comte, favored scientific reasoning instead of metaphysics or idealism. One could say this kind of thinking brought art back to the realism of the earth. Such painters as Van Gogh could render a pair of old shoes and show the wear and tear of life upon them and not some miraculous idea of perfection.

Canvas paintings were very popular as the medium. In fact painters supported themselves by selling each other's work. The canvas as a medium seems to have sustained since the Renaissance and even to this day.

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