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Lecture 6

FAH245 - Lecture 6: Realism and Reality

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University of Toronto St. George
Jordan Bear

- The question of realism is, in some way, at the heart of what painting is supposed to be about - Myth of Zouksis and Parausieus: staged a contest to determine which of the two is the greater painter o Zouksis shows his paintings of grapes and the birds swoop down to try and peck at the food o Parausieus told Zouksis to pull the curtain that covers his painting (the curtain was part of the painting) o “I have deceived the birds but Parausieus has deceived me” - The human being is enticed by what is not momentarily apparent, wants to see what is promised to be “behind the curtain” - Distinction between material and immaterial worlds, and the difference between perception and the active imagination - Period of 17 thcentury: School rises - Artists are able to provide multiple layers of reality to demonstrate their ability as painters - Self-Portrait by Gerrit Dou (1650) o His book is leaning over edge, head is casting shadow that exceeds the space of the niche that he is sitting in, the label is peeling so that the left hand corner is about to be revealed o Curtain rod is part of painting o Dou was the most successful and highly paid artist of the th Netherlands in the 17 century (beat his rival Rembrandt in terms of pay) o His ability to create an eye-fooling picture that has within it its own realistic relationship with space - ’61 Pontiac by Robert Bechtle (1968) o Period of hyper realism was populat in the 1960’s o California painter that paints meticulously rendered paintings that appear to be photographs o Picture that achieves the highest conceivable point of realism What makes 19 thCentury French Realism distinct form these efforts? 1. Subject Matter a. “It is good to descend, or, if you will, rise once more to the classes that scarcely ever had the privieleg of being studied and pit into the light by painting… The portrait of the worker in his smock is certainly worth as much as the portrait of a prince in his golden robes.” – Theophilee Thore, 1863 b. Not any longer that the prince in his golden robes will be the exclusive subject in painting 2. Contemporaneity  “They do not content themselves with ridiculous trompe l’oeil’ they interpret their era as men wno feel it live within them, who are possessed by it… their works are alive because they have taken them from life and they jave painted them with all the love they feel for modern subjects.” 3. Politics th  realistit paintings of the 19 centuty have a set of po;itocal aims  strikinkly different form the motives that spurred on paintings two centuries earlier - Asparagus by Edouard Manet (1880)  sold one of his patrons a larger picture of his paintings for 800 francs  when he receives the check, it is for 1000 francs  he responds to the overpayment by painting a smaller picture of one asparagus and sends it to the buyer with the note that “at that price, I believe one asparagus is missing”  “The day is coming when a single original carrot will be pregantn with revolution.” – Emile Zola  there is some notion that the simple decisiont to paint something as apparently irrelevant/minor/everyday, it has a political thrust behind it  how can such a small thing harbour a political role/motive? - The Stone-Breakers by Gustave Courbet (1849) Destroyed during WWII  Two laborers: one young and old  Their job is to crush large stones into smaller stones in order to pave the roads of the major developing cities in France  Clearly impoverished and labouring for a wage to make ends meet  They are wearing patches and rags  Picture of life sentence that the labouring poor were given  Young man on left doomed to become the old man on the right  What’s really innovative about the painting, is the scale of the figures  Picture a direct reply to the English painters Constable, he hid his laborers way off into the distance, while Courbet paints a close up of these laborers but at the same time don’t see their features (what would make them individuals)  The nature of their work makes them faceless and they become a symbol  This painting was received in Paris and the Parisian wealthy who encountered the picture for the first time, partially criticized it because it limits the social class and those who engage in such activities - Burial at Ornans by Gustave Courbet (1849)  scene of his rural hometown (he himself comes from the countryside, not a Parisian, he is from a rural non-elite background)  positions himself as an outsider to the Parisian audiences  large painting (currently in Musee D’orsay)  funeral procession going through the hometown  the participants are wearing contemporary garb of the French rural society and religious garments  the dog is looking in the wrong direction, looking back to the group of people following the procession, could be doing what a dog would do in real life (be looking around)  scene of death, scene of everyday inevitable occurrence  doesn’t choose them because they are extraordinary, but because they are unremarkable and ordinary  from those traditional historical death scenes we were supposed to learn a lesson or see a hero that we can emulate, in this painting, you can’t because it is so ordinary  Courbet is interested in life events that transcend class limitations (death is the great equalizer)  Picture of universal experience, something that will happen to everyone  Rather than privileging heroic deeds of kings or generals, turned the stage of respectable painting to the regular people of history  During this period of time, the vote limitations are expanded and  - Young Ladies from the Village Giving Alms to a Cowherd in a valley of Ornans by Courbet (1852)  Provincial women from the countryside who are dressed in their Sunday best (which is several years out of style compared to what is in Paris)  Pretentious people who are putting on the airs of a social area that is expanding, but not really up to par, however they believe that they are  They are condescending the country girl, leaning down over her  They themselves become the subject of mockery and making a mockery of the entire idea of social class  Because they are the most recently arrived of the middle class “nouvea riche” but are already looking down upon those who believe are belong them (even though not too long ago, they were part of the group)  Showing them just how tenuous those social categories are, just how unstable the categories of the elites are  The fact that the landscape appears to be a painted background while the figures are standing in front if it, can be interpreted as one can literally transcend ones background and into respectable society - Bathers by Courbet (1853)  the bather is not a woman of conventional beauty, not an idealized figure that Parisian audiences would have expected or demanded  debunk the traditions of painting as traditions that refuse to look at the real world and only idealize the human form and the concerns of reality  Criticizes paintings that mythologize the figure of the human form in paintings (such as the Birth of Venus by Cabanel that were still being made during his time)  Courbet’s woman is a perversion from the false tradition of painting reality and the human form (of figures who do not at all look like realistic human beings) - The Sower by Jean-Francois Millet (1850)  In France in 1848, there was an attempt to bring about a second French Revolution to bring about universal employment, suffrage, and ultimately reconfigure the relationship between those who own and those work land  This painting appears in 1850 (in the wake of the revolution) that is me
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