HISTART 393-004

Undergraduate Seminar: Realism and Naturalism in Modern Art

Tappan 210
Thursday 10:00-1:00pm
3 Credit Seminar

Modern art is usually thought of in terms of its tendency to abstraction, but there is also a vital current of modern realist and naturalist experimentation which this course examines. It begins with the emergence of realism as a tendency in the mid-nineteenth century, represented by artists such as Courbet, and extends on to the interplay between painted image making and photographic printed imagery taking place in recent art. Realism as understood here involves a commitment on the part of the artist to represent or depict scenes taken from the world he or she lives in, conveying in a convincing way something to the viewer of these scenes' visible, material qualities as well as their significance. Realist artists' anti-idealism led to a privileging of scenes everyday life, or common existence, rather than of high life – and if high life, often drawing attention to its more banal and less than attractive aspects. More ambitious realist work often presented a critique, even if not explicit, of a privileged or accepted vision of things. Naturalism, as it emerged in the later nineteenth century, intensified the commitment to visible facts and realities, to things observed as they actually are as distinct from what they are imagined to be or ought to be. The course goes on to look at the new forms of realism, the social realism and the so called realism of objectivity, which emerged after the advent of abstraction changed the basic parameters of modern art practice in the early twentieth century. It examines the impact of photographic imagery on pictorial realism and naturalism, including tendencies such as the new realism and pop that got underway in the 1960s, appropriating visual material from the mass media, the slightly later photorealist painting done directly after photographs, and the new forms of photographic image making such as Jeff Wall's in which elaborate pictures are created by way of photography. There will also be discussion of the ongoing tradition in present-day painting that operates off earlier realist, social realist and naturalist currents in art.

Estimated Cost of Materials: $0-$50.

History of Art category for concentration distribution categories: 4. Modern and Contemporary, D. Europe and the U.S.