SINCERITY AND ARTIFICE IN REALISM
England and France
By the middle of the nineteenth century, Realism was an international movement. In England, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood were the rebellious Realists, challenging the classicism of the Academy. The English artists worked in natural light and celebrated the narrative in visual art. The PRB quickly found support though the art critic John Ruskin and began to focus on modern problems in the modern world. It is this penchant for the literary and this British interest in urban contemporary life that separates the Pre-Raphaelite Movement from the Realism across the Channel.
Realism in France was a fragmented movement. On one hand there were the so-called “official Realists,” or those who pleased the government, and on the other hand there were the avant-garde Realists. However within the group of artist who challenged the Academy standards, there was a philosophical split–is art a reflection of reality and therefore capable of being “sincere,” or is art in and of itself “artificial” and therefore is a cynical artifice? Within this aesthetic question is the differing political stances, with sincerity as being more politically active and artifice as being more of a social commentary. In France, “realism” divided along two poles, “sincerity,” as with Millet and Courbet, or “artifice,” as with Manet.
Also listen to “Realism in Europe, Part Two” and “Realism in Europe, Part One” and read “Avant-Garde Realism inFrance” and “Realism and the Role of the Realist Artist” and “Realism and Naturalism in Art” and “Salon Realism in France” and “Realism and Naturalism in Art” and “Avant-Garde Realism in England” and “The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood”