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Realism, sometimes called naturalism, in the arts is generally the attempt to represent subject matter truthfully, without artificiality and avoiding speculative fiction and supernatural elements. Realism has been prevalent in the arts at many periods, and can be in large part a matter of technique and training, and the avoidance of stylization.

In the visual arts, illusionistic realism is the accurate depiction of lifeforms, perspective, and the details of light and colour. But realist or naturalist works of art may, as well or instead of illusionist realism, be "realist" in their subject matter, and emphasize the mundane, ugly or sordid. This is typical of the 19th-century Realist movement that began in France in the 1850s, after the 1848 Revolution,[1] and also social realism, regionalism, or kitchen sink realism. The Realist painters rejected Romanticism, which had come to dominate French literature and art, with roots in the late 18th century.

There have been various movements invoking realism in the other arts, such as the opera style of verismo, literary realism, theatrical realism, and Italian neorealist cinema.

Broadly defined as "the faithful representation of reality",[14] Realism as a literary movement is based on "objective reality." It focuses on showing everyday activities and life, primarily among the middle or lower class society, without romantic idealization or dramatization.[15] It may be regarded as the general attempt to depict subjects as they are considered

Broadly defined as "the faithful representation of reality",[14] Realism as a literary movement is based on "objective reality." It focuses on showing everyday activities and life, primarily among the middle or lower class society, without romantic idealization or dramatization.[15] It may be regarded as the general attempt to depict subjects as they are considered to exist in third person objective reality, without embellishment or interpretation and "in accordance with secular, empirical rules."[16] As such, the approach inherently implies a belief that such reality is ontologically independent of human kind's conceptual schemes, linguistic practices and beliefs, and thus can be known (or knowable) to the artist, who can in turn represent this 'reality' faithfully. As Ian Watt states, modern realism "begins from the position that truth can be discovered by the individual through the senses" and as such "it has its origins in Descartes and Locke, and received its first full formulation by Thomas Reid in the middle of the eighteenth century."[17]

While the preceding Romantic era was also a reaction against the values of the Industrial Revolution, realism

While the preceding Romantic era was also a reaction against the values of the Industrial Revolution, realism was in its turn a reaction to Romanticism, and for this reason it is also commonly derogatorily referred as "traditional" "bourgeois realism".[18] Some writers of Victorian literature produced works of realism.[19] The rigidities, conventions, and other limitations of "bourgeois realism" prompted in their turn the revolt later labeled as modernism; starting around 1900, the driving motive of modernist literature was the criticism of the 19th-century bourgeois social order and world view, which was countered with an antirationalist, antirealist and antibourgeois program.[18][20][21]

Theatrical realism is said to have first emerged in European drama in the 19th century as an offshoot of the Industrial Revolution and the age of science.[22][23] Some also specifically cited the invention of photography as the basis of the realist theater[24][25] while others view that the association between realism and drama is far older as demonstrated by the principles of dramatic forms such as the presentation of the physical world that closely matches reality.[26]

The achievement of realism in the theatre was to direct attention to the social and psychological problems of ordinary life. In its dramas, people emerge as victims of forces larger than themselves, as

The achievement of realism in the theatre was to direct attention to the social and psychological problems of ordinary life. In its dramas, people emerge as victims of forces larger than themselves, as individuals confronted with a rapidly accelerating world.[27] These pioneering playwrights were unafraid to present their characters as ordinary, impotent, and unable to arrive at answers to their predicaments. This type of art represents what we see with our human eyes. Anton Chekov, for instance, used camera works to reproduce an uninflected slice of life, exposing the rhetorical and suasive character of realistic theatricality.[28] Scholars such as Thomas Postlewait noted that throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, there were numerous joinings of melodramatic and realistic forms and functions, which could be demonstrated in the way melodramatic elements existed in realistic forms and vice versa.[29]

In the United States, realism in drama preceded fictional realism by about two decades as theater historians identified the first impetus toward realism during the late 1870s and early 1880s.[30] Its development is also attributed to William Dean Howells and Henry James who served as the spokesmen for realism as well as articulator of its aesthetic principles.[30]

The realistic approach to theater collapsed into nihilism and the absurd after World War II.[22]

Italian Neorealism was a cinematic movement incorporating elements of realism that developed in post-WWII Italy. Notable Neorealists included Vittorio De Sica, Luchino Visconti, and Roberto Rossellini. Realist films generally focus on social issues.[31] There are two types of realism in film: seamless realism and aesthetic realism. Seamless realism tries to use narrative structures and film techniques to create a "reality effect" to maintain its authenticity.[32] Aesthetic realism, which was first called for by French filmmakers in the 1930s and promoted by Andre Bazin in the 1950s, acknowledges that a "film cannot be fixed to mean what it shows", as there are multiple realisms; as such, these filmmakers use location shooting, natural light and non-professional actors to ensure the viewer can make up her/his own choice based on the film, rather than being manipulated into a "preferred reading".[33] Siegfried Kracauer is also notable for arguing that realism is the most important function of cinema.[34]

Aesthetic realist filmmakers use long shots, deep focus and eye-level 90 degree shots to reduce manipulation of what the viewer sees.[35] Italian neorealism filmmakers from a

Aesthetic realist filmmakers use long shots, deep focus and eye-level 90 degree shots to reduce manipulation of what the viewer sees.[35] Italian neorealism filmmakers from after WWII took the existing realist film approaches from France and Italy that emerged in the 1960s and used them to create a politically-oriented cinema. French filmmakers made some politically-oriented realist films in the 1960s, such as the cinéma vérité and documentary films of Jean Rouch.[36] In the 1950s and 1960s, British, French and German new waves of filmmaking produced "slice-of-life" films (e.g., kitchen sink dramas in the UK).[37]

Verismo was a post-Romantic operatic tradition associated with Italian composers such as Pietro Mascagni, Ruggero Leoncavallo, Umberto Giordano, Francesco Cilea and Giacomo Puccini. They sought to bring the naturalism of influential late 19th-century writers such as Émile Zola, Gustave Flaubert, and Henrik Ibsen into opera. This new style presented true-to-life drama that featured gritty and flawed lower-class protagonists[38] while some described it as a heightened portrayal of a realistic event.[39] Although an account considered Giuseppe Verdi's Luisa Miller and La Traviata as the first stirrings of the verismo,[40] some claimed that it began in 1890 with the first performance of Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana, peaked in the early 1900s.[41] It was followed by Leoncavallo's Pagliacci, which dealt with the themes of infidelity, revenge, and violence.[38]

Verismo also reached Britain where pioneers included the Victorian-era theatrical partnership of the Verismo also reached Britain where pioneers included the Victorian-era theatrical partnership of the dramatist W. S. Gilbert and the composer Arthur Sullivan (1842–1900).[39] Specifically, their play Iolanthe is considered a realistic representation of the nobility although it included fantastical elements.