Survey of Romantic versus Realism paintings





A Survey of Romantic and Realistic Paintings



Fantasy and reality occupy our worlds everyday. One sees this world around himself and he retreats to what he wishes it was. Why shouldn’t he paint about it? The portrayal of fantastic and realistic notions occupied the activity of painters from the mid 1800’s to the 20th century. The period of Romantic painting lies roughly from the mid 1700s to the mid/later 1800s, while paintings from the movement of Realism are grouped from the mid 1800s to the 1900s.
The aspect of a Romantic composition’s balance is characterized by diagonals and tension. Disproportion, imbalance and a feeling of pushing and pulling within the depth of the composition can also be observed. While movement and activity is characteristic of Romantic paintings, a still, quiet, stationary behavior epitomizes Realism paintings. In Eugene Isabey’s Boat Ashore at Calas (1851), simple romantic elements comprise the piece: diagonals and smoke. A main diagonal line emphasizes the downward slope of a shore lined with beached boats resting upon the sand. A challenging inferior diagonal line of a small group of people and their dinghies cross the main diagonal flow. The two lines of tension resolve at the lower center of the composition highlighting the main, looming subject - a dark massive apparition of a docked, freight boat enshrouded by blackening smoke. This is in contrast to Gustave Courbet’s depiction of sea life in The Calm Sea (1869). The painting resembles a high resolution black and white photograph. Realistic elements are the stationary flatness of the horizon and the solitary presence of two single beached boats. The portrayal of the shoreline, horizon and cloud formation is horizontally stable, thus emphasizing the calmness of the sea. Baron Antoine-Jean Gros’ Murat Defeating the Turkish Army (1805) is a composition which presents an overwhelming flow of diagonal tension. Murat is centered in the composition uprightly astride on his horse, while the Turkish army surrounds him in every conceivable contortion of agony. The Turkish general faces Murat, yet he is positioned diagonally right below Murat in an inferior military pose. Compared to Murat, Courbet’s Bonjour Monsieur Courbet (1854) finds a very stable balance in the subject of two men saying good-bye to another man. The subject can be divided by the two men on the left and the backpacked man on the right. Stability is emphasized by the strong vertical presence of the men in direct contrast to the flat planed background. The use of balance and tension in Romanticism and Realism is not restricted to it’s compositional flow but also to the the painter’s use of his palette.
The use of color in Romantic paintings is bold visually and figuratively. It’s usage is implemented to represent a feeling or an ideal. The presence of a color may not be realistically representative. For example, if the blood of a corrupt official is painted, it might be painted black or green, rather than red. There is also a heavy application of paint from the brush. The presence of a blurring smoke is also present in much of Romantic paintings. Blurring smoke has many uses, although it’s usual function is to detach and glorify the main subject from the rest of the background. Color in Realism is highly refined. Color defines the object and is representative of colors in real life - a person’s blood will usually be red. Lighter brushstrokes are implemented conservatively to represent a true visual representation of reality. The use of color representation can be observed in Gros’ Murat and Courbet’s Bonjour. The victorious Murat is clothed in blue and white upon a white horse, surrounded by the perishing Turkish swirls of orange and red. Anything that is orange or red around Murat is in a pose of impaled misery. All orange and red is contorted to reveal the imposing presence of Murat. In Bonjour, colors stay inside their lines. The colors used on the men’s clothing are very specific to reveal the texture of the clothing. This restriction of color succeeds in giving the painting a quaint realistic candidness. The contrasting use of clouds and smoke can be noted in the romantic works of Gros’ Murat and Francois Boucher’s Venus and Mars (1754) and The Rape of