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Realism of Manet, Courbet and Millet Essay

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Updated: Jun 15th, 2020

Realism can be defined as a type of art that emphasizes the way people or objects are represented in a natural environment. Unlike idealistic forms of art, it is devoid of mythical or unreal subjects. Édouard Manet is regarded as one of the pioneer painters of modern art. He is said to be responsible for bridging the gap between realism and impressionism. Manet grew up under the tutorage of Thomas Couture. He later abandoned the work of his teacher and started his own style of painting.

Manet broke away from traditional methods of painting by making sure that his colors were not built into a single glaze. If we consider Édouard Manet to be a realist, his reality differs from that of Courbet and Millet in that Courbet and Millet dwelt more on the challenges faced in rural areas while Manet concentrated on day-to-day activities of the people in his town.

Manet’s work attracted a lot of criticism throughout his career. The painter had a vision of ensuring that his work reflected the real life activities of the people viewing his work. Manet was, however, disappointed when most of his paintings were rejected by the Paris Salon. As an expression of realism, his technique was influenced by scenes from everyday life. He would paint images of people drinking, reading or listening to music. For instance, his first original work, The Absinthe Drinker, showed Collardet, a local alcoholic, standing next to a glass of absinthe and an empty bottle of the same drink lying on the floor. To Manet’s dismay, Couture disapproved the painting and accused Manet of losing his morals.

Another painter who embraced realism was Gustave Courbet. While growing up, Courbet disliked the strictures of the French Academy. This made him concentrate more on rural setups. Unlike Manet, Courbet usually painted realistic scenes from the countryside. Before entering politics, Courbet had gained fame through his work. One of his famous paintings was A Burial At Ornans. This piece of art was a realistic account of a relative’s funeral which he had attended in his rural town of Ornans. Critics lashed out at the artist stating that the painting lacked a sentimental rhetoric. To them, Courbet failed to include theatrical gestures of mourners which raised the question of whether they were actually grieving. However, this did not deter Courbet and he proceeded to present the painting to the Salon. To his amazement, the painting was accepted with a lot of acclaim and saw him achieve instant fame.

Jean-François Millet was another French painter who engineered the realism art movement. Millet style of realism was different from Manet’s in that he usually painted images of the hardships that peasants went through.

The Gleaners was one of his most famous paintings. In the painting, three women are seen gleaning in the wheat fields under the scorching sun. A group of harvesters can be seen in the background piling up plentiful amounts of wheat while a supervisor keeps an eye on them. As an expression of realism, the painting was meant to convey the message that although women from the lowest social classes occupied the same canvas as members of the upper classes, they would never have a chance of accessing the same resources. The painting was, of course, received with criticism by members of the French upper classes. Millet and Courbet’s styles of realism differ slightly from that of Manet. However, it is safe to say that their ideas of realism played a major role in modernizing art.

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