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Painting In The Second Half Of The Nineteenth Century

1587 words - 6 pages

Painting in the Second Half of the Nineteenth CenturyDuring the second half of the nineteenth century, the ideal of self-determinationfostered by the French Revolution and spread by Napoleon helped spawn a revolutionaryspirit across Europe. This spirit of rebellion also infected artists of the period. Paintersbegan to challenge the philosophy and the aesthetic principles of the academies, lookingoutside these conservative institutions for their training, subject matter, style, andpurpose. While many artists and critics promoted the status quo, others sought change,seeing validity in new themes and new approaches. To many artists, the histories andmythologies still promoted by the academies offered no inspiration, and so they turnedelsewhere for their subject matter. Some looked to nature, others to daily life, and stillothers to themes of the worker, the poor, and the oppressed. As they sought alternatives,many artists gathered in groups based on common interests. Outside the establishedmainstream of their own time, the Realists, the Impressionists, and the Post-Impressionists broadened the horizons of Western art.Gustave Courbet (1819-1877), a self declared Realist, rejected the inherentsentimentality of work by the Romantics. Courbet's interest in portraying things as theyreally appear, together with his nonacademic orientation, placed him in the front rank ofthe quest for realism, the premise for much of the artistic activity of the period. MichaelWood quotes Courbet as saying: "It was not my intention of attaining the trivial goal ofart for art's sake. My aim is to translate the customs, the ideas, and the appearance of myown epoch as I see them." According to Janson "The storm broke in 1849, when heexhibited The Stone breakers, the first canvas fully embodying his programmaticRealism" (dcv). Courbet was inspired by the complete expression of human misery hesaw in an encounter with an old road worker in tattered clothes and his young assistant.The painting was completely ridiculed by critics and public alike; it was consideredunsuitable for artistic representation, and "linked to the newly defined working class,which was finding outspoken champions in men like Marx and Engels" (Gardner dcclix).Courbet was praised by some social reformers; however, and they saw the painting auniversal condemnation of capitalism and its potential greed.In 1859, a young Parisian painter named Edouard Manet (1832-1883) submittedhis first picture to the Salon, but his Absinthe Drinker, portraying a drunken bum, wasrejected for its unseemly subject and uncompromising realism. In 1863 Manetparticipated in the famous Salon des Refuses, an exhibition consisting of works rejectedby the official Salon, and he came to be viewed as the hero of the nonconformists.Though Manet regarded himself as working in the tradition of the great masters, hisapproach was to rethink established themes in modern terms.Manet succeeded at shocking his audience many times, but no work...

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