Movement in mid- to late 19th-century art, in which an attempt was made to create objective representations of the external world based on the impartial observation of contemporary life. Realism was consciously democratic, including in its subject-matter and audience activities and social classes previously considered unworthy of representation in high art. The most coherent development of Realism was in French painting, where it centred on the work of Gustave Courbet, who used the word réalisme as the title for a manifesto that accompanied an exhibition of his works in 1855. Though its influence extended into the 20th century its later manifestations are usually labelled as Social Realism.
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© Grove Art / OUP

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