Painting, from the eighteenth century into the early nineteenth

Prendeville, Brendan. 2021. Painting, from the eighteenth century into the early nineteenth. In: Dirk Gröttsche; Rosa Mucignat and Robert Weininger, eds. Landscapes of realism: Rethinking Literary Realism in Comparative Perspectives. Volume 1: Mapping Realism. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, pp. 191-212. ISBN 9789027208064 [Book Section]

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Contribution to comparative historical study of realism in literture; chapter for 'Routes into realism' section on emergence of realist and proto realist tendencies in eighteenth and early nineteenth century European painting, as these bear on comparable tendencies in contemporary literature.

During the eighteenth century, realist traits emerged in both French and British art, principally through the ‘elevation’ of genre. In France, Greuze interpreted mundane and domestic subjects in such ways as to lend them a moral weight; in Britain, Hogarth addressed social concerns by means of comedy; in both cases an aim was to raise the status of genre, and in both contexts there were parallels with developments in drama and the novel. The institutional and social setting for the practices in question was enlightened and bourgeois, and the manifested realism was bounded by convention, admitting of artifice. The realism that was to emerge in nineteenth-century art tended by contrast to contest institutional norms. It came to be based expressly in subjective experience (conveying the feeling of being immersed in an event, or in nature) and yet could tend to be wider in scope than the work of eighteenth-century precursors, in the sense of being more universal in content and more public in its mode of address. Such tendencies may be discerned, divergently, in Goya, Friedrich and Constable. Where science comes into play, we find a shift from Newtonian order (Joseph Wright) to matter in process (Constable), with the dawn of romanticism and the industrial age.

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Book Section

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realism, art, genre, nature, ideal, science, subjectivity, immersion, materiality

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Visual Cultures


21 April 2021Published

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27 Mar 2024 09:34

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27 Mar 2024 09:34


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