McAndrew 2 Realism

Realism was a movement that originated in France in the middle of the 19th Century. Artists in this movement loved to portray life in an accurate, unglamorous manner. They wanted to capture life as it really was and explore the contemporary lifestyle of poor people or the working class. They also often considered how the upper classes differed from the lower classes. Pieces of this time are known for depicting ugly or harsh topics and focusing on common people with extreme accuracy.

In this painting, Millet is trying to capture the experiences that night shepherds endure. The pale color of the moon and solitary figure in the painting allows us to feel a sense of loneliness and weariness. He wants us to consider the mental effect that spending nights alone and awake in the pasture might have on a shepherd.
This painting is characteristic of realism because of its focus on contemporary lifestyle and the everyday practice of milking a cow. The woman in the picture is obviously leading a life that demands hard work and simplicity. The painting itself is not romanticized in any way as even the landscape is not decorated with flowers or playing children. An actual picture of a women milking a cow would not be much different than Millet's painting: he has portrayed the scene with excellent accuracy.
In this painting, Van Gogh exhibits Realist characteristics through his subject choice and the way in which he executes his theme. He chooses to paint a poor family sharing a simple plate of potatoes for their evening meal. In other parts of the continent, the middle class is throwing huge dinner parties and spending large portions of their paycheck on extravagant food, but it seems as if this family might struggle to have their paycheck buy them the most simple carbs for a month. None of the members at the table look especially happy or energetic, but rather appear to be sullen and fatigued. The plate of potatoes must be shared by each member of the family. Van Gogh's use of accuracy and straightforwardness about the family's condition is the main characteristic of Realism.
This portrait is characteristic of the Realism Era in its portrayal of a working class member at the loom. When questioned about his intention of creating a basket and weaver series, Van Gogh said "A weaver or a basket maker often spends whole seasons alone, or almost alone, with his craft as his only distraction. And what makes these people stay in one place is precisely the feeling of being at home, the reassuring and familiar look of things." It's clear that he wants to capture the practice of working indoors exactly as tiring and mentally challenging as it is. His straightforward, unglamorous depiction of the weaver is a sure sigh of Realism.
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