Comparative Art: A Progression from Realism to Impressionism

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Realism to Impressionism 1 Realism to Impressionism: A Progression The 19th century was a time of radical change and innovation in nearly every aspect of society. The Industrial Revolution changed the face of transportation, business, and science. A race for resources and power among European nations led to colonization of the most remote areas of the world. Old political structures stumbled while new ones like Communism took root. The arts were not immune to this climate of change. Literature, music, and fine art all underwent deep shifts in practice and philosophy. One of the most radical of these shifts occurred in the painting world in late 19th century France. Realism, a school established in the mid-1800s and committed to portraying the world in the most accurate detail as possible, gave way to Impressionism, an entirely new artistic philosophy embracing ambiguity and emotion. This profound change can be seen in the comparison of paintings from each period; namely, The Gleaners by Realist painter Jean-Francois Millet and Hay Harvest at Eragny by Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro. A comparative analysis of these paintings shows not only the innovative and reactionary elements of the Impressionist movement, but also how it maintained and developed important characteristics of Realism. The school of French Realism was established in mid-19th century France as a response to some important intellectual and philosophical developments in post-Revolutionary France.

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