The Realism painting style depicts life as it actually appears without added glorification, drama or emotion. This movement attempts to keep the artist’s interpretation to a bare minimum. The idea is to present life in its natural environment which often includes the ordinary, the mundane and even the ugly.

Any message that seems to emanate from a realistic painting is meant to be a direct result of what was actually happening at that specific moment in time. It is, however, in keeping with this style for the artist to manipulate compositional elements for the purpose of more clearly communicating the truth of an event without changing its meaning or scope.

This style of painting originated in the mid 1800s in France as a reaction to the predominate Romantic movement of that time. This period also coincided with the development of photography. French artist Gustave Courbet is considered to be the father of the realistic style. His famous painting, A Burial at Ornans, depicts the 1848 funeral of a relative and is generally credited with kicking off this artistic style

Other significant artists that incorporated realism painting techniques in their work include; Jean Baptist Simeon Chardin, Charles-Francois Daubigny, Francisco Goya, Winslow Homer, Edward Manet, John Singer Sargent and Andrew Wyeth just to name a few.

A partial list of other subcategories of realism include:

Naturism is a term that is sometimes used interchangeably with the broad term realism. Real subjects and events are painted in their natural settings.

Hyper-Realism or Photo-Realism plays extreme attention to accurately displaying absolutely every minute detail of a subject. The end result can resemble an oversized, sharply focused photograph.

Classical Realism is a relatively modern movement that attempts to return the realistic painting methods and craftsmanship of pre 20th Century artists. Artists rely only on their observational skills without the use photography.

Fantastic Realism attempts to use the realistic techniques of the old master painters (before 1828) with added religious symbolism.

Social Realism grew out of the great American Financial Depression of the 1930s. The intent of these works of art was to realistically depict the devastating struggles and injustice of that era.

Romantic Realism renders its subjects realistically but with the freedom to add the possibilities of how things could be or even should be based on traditional romantic ideology.

Tips For Painting In The Style Of Realism:

1. Think of yourself as a news photographer. Your job is not necessarily to join a cause or take sides. Your work should involve accurately and clearly communicating a snapshot of everyday life for the average Joe. Do not let your emotions tempt you to represent people in a flattering way. Paint what is actually there and let the chips fall where they may. This can be a wonderful exercise for learning to see like a true artist.

2. Paint realistically by paying attention to representing color, proportions, perspective and other critical elements as true to the moment as possible.

3. Use any medium that lends itself to painting realistically. Oil and acrylic paints tend to dominate but there is nothing wrong with experimenting with pastels, pencils, markers or pen and ink.

4. Start with using earthy colors that are dominant in nature such as variations on yellow and brown.

5. Gain a commanding grasp of the fundamentals of painting. So often talented but self-taught amateurs produce paintings that are not carefully crafted. Even small inaccuracies in perspective, for example, can absolutely destroy the illusion of realism. Consider going to a formal painting school or purchasing a thorough video painting course on DVD.

For the serious art student, learning realism painting styles should be a mandatory part of their education. The fundamental skills and techniques needed to successfully paint in this style will always come in handy even when the time comes to experiment with less realistic painting styles.

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