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date: 09 May 2021


  • Gerald Needham


Term that has been used with many different meanings. It is predominantly applied to painting, and in its broadest sense it describes any art depicting actual, rather than religious and imaginary, subject-matter. It implies a style in which the artist tries to observe and then faithfully record the subject before him without deliberate idealization or stylization. The term has been used more specifically and (sometimes confusingly) in relation to 19th-century art, particularly French art, both as a synonym for Realism and as a label for certain mutually exclusive subcurrents of it. Nevertheless, a more selfconscious development, Naturalism, can be discerned in the 19th century, which is centred on the ideas of Jules-Antoine Castagnary and Emile Zola.

In Classical art the application of the term is complicated by the fact that the religious or mythological overtones of an image cannot always be discounted. Roman art provides the clearest early examples of naturalism, and at ...

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