Final Project Option #1- The Evolution of Realism in Art History

Juan Jose Hernandez

Art 1010

Prof. Gwendolyn Shaw

December 11th, 2018

Final Project- The Evolution of Realism in Art History

In art history, artists have developed and evolved over time, always bringing new styles of art. Although art can be interpreted and defined in many ways, in this case art is the way artist express themselves and apply certain skills in painting or sculpting in other to create a work of art. However, the way art is made has evolved over time as new artists have incorporated their innovative ideas into their work. One new movement of art is the incorporation of realism in art projects. Realism was developed by Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) who was a famous artist recognized and criticized for challenging the way painting had been made. He suggested that “‘painting is and essentially concrete art and can only consist in the representation of real and existing things’” (Finocchio, Ross, 2004) This means that the old method of exaggerating dimensions of the human body and making those look unnatural did not make art realistic. In art history realism has influenced the way art is perceived by people evolving to a more natural and realistic art rather than exaggerated dimensions and unnatural work of art.

Over time art has influenced the culture of many civilisations and usually artist paint or do sculptures in other to represent a period, or event or simply to express and idea. The way art was made in the 1400s was different from modern art.

Below is a painting of The Dead Christ, by Andrea Mantegna c.1480-

In the image above is illustrated Jesus Christ laying in a bed after he has been crucified on the cross. The wounds and wholes of his hands and feet are visible which and the portion of Jesus body is pulled down by gravity because all his muscles are stretched and loose. The rib-cage are also very stretched, however the body as a whole is very large and it seems unnatural. The feet are the first body part upfront and they look very small compared to the whole body of Jesus. Furthermore, the face of Virgin Mary and John illustrate agony as they mourn over the death of Jesus Christ. Virgin Mary is drying her tears but the proportions of her hands do not match how far her fingers can reach towards her eye because she has it covered. Although it seems as if it was very large. One more thing to be aware of is that the hands of John are very small as he holds them together into prayer. This painting is unrealistic and unnatural, although the event is very religious and accurate, Jesus is painted to be larger than Virgin Mary and John.

In the 1500s painting was being introduced with better and more realistic dimensions but artists were not quite there yet.

Below is an image of Plato, Aristotle and other ancient philosophers and mathematicians depicted in Raphael’s School of Athens painted by fresco in 1509-1511-

In this painting the period of the renaissance is being represented by the accommodation of various philosophers throughout the painting. In the 1500s there was a rebirth in the interest for Roman and Greek culture because humans were thought to be the center of the universe during the introduction of Humanism during the Renaissance. The concept is represented by the many philosophers and great thinkers coming together having papers (from the very first printing press invented by gutenberg) and showing exchange of ideas through conversations and thinking postures. However the painting is unnatural because was impossible for all ancient philosophers and mathematicians to come together before an artist to paint them. The thing to notice however is that landscape was being added to the methods of doing art. There is depth in the structure because the artist included clouds that can be seen through the windows. Furthermore, there is also a mirror’s reflection of the structure seen from the point of view of the men painted. Realism is intended here but not achieved.

Realism was finally introduced in the late 1840s after the French revolution, where the french population wanted democracy and later on artists drew their focus on everyday-life of men and woman of the working class. Here art became more realistic and natural. Natural things that everyday people do such as harvesting, or brushing hair, or having lunch at the park are some examples.

Below is a painting of The Gleaners (1857) by Jean Francois-Millet-

In the image above, three women are collecting the leftovers of the harvest, it required “hours of hunched-over labor would often be rewarded with a small amount of meal” (TheArtStory.org). This form of work was the lowest in the french society for peasant women. But he image is not altered. The artist saw a scene and decided to paint it. The body dimensions of the women are accurate and the landscape is also natural. The horse is well painted to a small size which makes it look far away. The colors of the painting make it look as late afternoon. Furthermore the trees and cattle are also well represented.

In all three images, changing from time to time, the artists have incorporated events in history in general. Artists began to focus on everyday life and working class people which gave art a natural aspect. The incorporation of realism is very important in art today. Art is defined in many ways by many individuals, but in order to express a natural event then realism must be used. Art might continue to evolve, and it should be exiting.

Annotated Bibliography

Final Project Choice #1- Write a Paper Assignment (750-1000 Words)

Topic: The evolution of realistic art. (1400s – 1800s)

Over history in art, realism has influenced the way art is done. The addition of more natural methods into art has made it more life-like and it helps the viewer to be more amazed and engaged.

Thesis: In art history realism has influenced the way art is perceived by people evolving to a more natural and realistic art rather than exaggerated dimensions and unnatural work of art.

All the sources used for my paper final are listed below:


Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker, “A brief history of Western culture,” in Smarthistory, June 8, 2018, accessed December 10, 2018,  https://smarthistory.org/a-brief-history-of-western-culture/

In this source I was able to find a brief summary of the evolution of art in terms of realism and from 3000 B.C.E. to modern art. From here, I have chosen images that I will be referring to in my paper. The article talks about the different units historians have divided art history into, such as Prehistoric (before c. 3000 B.C.E.), Middle Ages (c. 400 C.E. to c. 1400 C.E.), Renaissance (c. 1400 to 1600), Modern (after c. 1800). The source is very helpful to me because I can refer to a timeline of works of art that have been done with and without realism.

Realism Movement Overview and Analysis”. 2018TheArtStory.org
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
Available from: https://www.theartstory.org/movement-realism.htm
[Accessed 3 Dec 2018]

In this source I was able to find who were some of the most important artist during the realism movement. The article talks about what realism is, (the method to incorporate real dimensions and natural aspects to works of art) and some of the most influential works of art such as Rue Transnonain, le 15 Avril 1834 (1834) or The Stone Breakers (1849-50). From this website I was also able to find reliable art work that I refer to in my paper.


“Great Works: The Dead Christ, by Andrea Mantegna c.1480” Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan, Michael Glover, Saturday 22 September 2012 00:00

In this website I was able find more information of The Dead Christ painting.

Finocchio, Ross. “Nineteenth-Century French Realism.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/rlsm/hd_rlsm.htm (October 2004)



Overall, this sources will be used to rely my evidence on in my final paper.


Final Project Choice #1- Write a Paper Assignment (750-1000 Words)

Topic: The evolution of realistic art. (1400s – 1800s)

Over history in art, realism has influenced the way art is done. The addition of more natural methods into art has made it more life-like and it helps the viewer to be more amazed and engaged.

Thesis: In art history realism has influenced the way art is perceived by people evolving to a more natural and realistic art rather than exaggerated dimensions and unnatural work of art.

Below is the different works of art I will be using for this Final Project:


 The Dead Christ, by Andrea Mantegna c.1480

Image result for realism in renaissance art

Plato, Aristotle and other ancient philosophers and mathematicians depicted in Raphael’s School of Athens, fresco, 1509-1511

Raphael, School of Athens, fresco, 1509-1511 (Stanza della Segnatura, Papal Palace, Vatican)


Hendrik Cornelisz Vroom, The Return to Amsterdam of the Second Expedition to the East Indies, 1599

Hendrik Cornelisz Vroom, The Return to Amsterdam of the Second Expedition to the East Indies, 1599, oil on canvas (Rijksmuseum)

A Burial at Ornans (1849-50) by Gustave CourbetGustave Courbet: A Burial at Ornans (1849-50)

Humanism in Greek and Roman Art

During Ancient Greece art work defines humanism as man being the center of the deities. Although worshiping gods was still an important aspect of human beliefs, the belief that man was at the center of everything that happened around them became more practiced. In contrast, during Mesopotamian art they believe that gods where the reason for everything that happened around them, therefore men would worship gods the majority if the time and they would respect their divine presence. In Ancient Greece gods would be respected only for limited people. Men thought that gods were the same as them because they were able to have sexual intercourse with them. In both periods of time it is illustrated how art differs from each other, one worshipping gods and the other focusing on the beauty of men.

In the image below we can see the “Standing Man Worshipper” sculpture where it represents the idea that man could not possibly be worshipping gods all the time. Therefore they decide to create sculptures like the one below so that it represents an everlasting prayer. This is an example of Mesopotamian art,

In the image below we can see a muscular man, the  “The Discobolus of Myron” about to throw a disc across a big field, we could imagine. This is an example of Greek art where the work of art is more detail and naturalism is more present compared to the sculpture mentioned before. The life-like features such as toned muscles, long strong legs, and toned abdomen demonstrates that art focused on the beauty of men. The beauty of strong men who in this case play sports and the art work has captured a specific moment before he throws the disc. This specific work of art demonstrates that gods were no longer the center of their lives but man on their own had to be worshipped as well.

Brooklyn Museum Assignment Part I & II

Part I












For Part I of the assignment I chose to dive into the Egyptian Art exhibition at the Museum. As soon as I saw the sculpture showed above I was interested to analyze this particular work of art which is called Pair Statue of Nelson and Never-ta. Using Formal Analysis I immediately noticed that the sitting couple is made out of Limestone. As I looked around I noticed that the bench where they are sitting on has writing all around it and not only in the bench but also in the persons clothing. This makes me think of the art work we saw in class and how sculptures from all other places in the wold also had writing during those times. This means that they all had their own language and similar ideas when it came to language. Their clothing and neckless have an appearance of people who are in high level society which made me think that they are a married couple from the royalty. What makes me come to the conclusion that they are married is that the are both have one arm being each other’s back and not only that but the artist made their arm unnaturally long and if looked closer on the sides they are holding each other with affection. Their body posture is stiff and everything seems alined. There is parallel lines in every section of writing. Furthermore this writing and the limestone is painter with different colors of blue, red, brow, and black. Furthermore the volume of hair in each person is large and it makes their faces look smaller, specially the woman whose face is smaller and has a larger neck. It seems that they both are wearing some sort of make-up in their eyes which makes those look bigger and angled. the size of the Sculpture is a small. I love what it represents and I love looking at it. Using formal made me understand in a deeper way what the sculpture represented in Egyptian times.


Part II

For Part II, in Soul of a Nation, after looking around the exhibit I found my attention to be caught under this amazing yet horrifying painting, The First One Hundred Years by Archibald Motley 1891-1981. As you can see in the pictures I took, the painting seems to be oiled based. Also the use of dark and cold colors is very mesmerizing because it helps the viewer feel what is going on. In the painting I feel that the artist wants the viewer to focus on the two faces that hang on the tree (Martin Luther King Jr.- J.F.K) and one from the house (Abraham Lincoln). Those are the faces of important activist and presidents of the United States. The main thing they all have in common is that they were all assassinated.  I chose these particular painting because it summarizes everything bad and wrong that happened during African American slavery and when the confederate flag was wave by the prosecutors and the “pure” white people. All this horrendous events took place under the times of those three individuals’s faces. To me the painting is very sad and scary. When I saw the painting,  it made me feel anger. To the whole exhibition this work of art in particular shows what African Americans had to go through before they obtained freedom. The Exhibition is about the Soul of a Nation, it has work of art that represent the time where Blacks resisted oppression, and the time where people made a difference. Basically the exhibition as a Then and a Now. The painting above is very powerful and meaning full and the way it was painted with different colors, scale and dimensions make the viewer to want to see it. After Motley concluded this work of art, he never painted again.

Unit 1: Art History Summary


Throughout this past month in Art History, the class focus has been strictly direct to the topics of Formal Analysis and Critical Pedagogy. This two concepts are necessary if we want to understand what we see when we look at art and the way we are able to analyze, critique, judge and interpret a work of art. Formal Analysis is describing a work of art and looking for every detail in a work of art; this is to help us analyze the choices an artist has made to create art. When looking at a work of art we must focus our attention every element that is made out of. These elements consist of color, line, scale, composition, space, texture, material and historical context. The last characteristic has more to do with Contextual Analysis which is the outside research about a work of art and although the concept is important we mainly focused on Formal Analysis. This technique helps us, the viewer, to come up with a decent interpretation about a work of art and why it was made the way it was by the artist.

In class we also discussed Critical Pedagogy which is a concept created by Paolo Friere, a Brazilian educational theorist. Friere criticized the education system and the way students and teacher interacted. Friere was against the Banking Model which mainly represents the way that students learn; students brains are empty containers that are filled by the wise and knowledgeable teacher. In this kind of classroom the teacher is in charge and the student is to only sit in class not having opinions about that they are being taught. This prevent the students form making critical thinking about literature. In order to end that system, Friere came up with Critical Pedagogy which is the idea that students and teachers are equal when it comes to learning. The interaction of both teacher to student and student to teacher makes the classroom more balanced. In this way of teaching where the students have an opinion, the goal is to make the students do critical thinking about what they are being taught. In the greater good, critical pedagogy is to help students be more human and not machines when it comes to learning.

In class both of this concepts came together when we would have an opinion about a work of art that the professor put before our eyes. For example we were asked to pay attention to the elements the artist chose in The Standard of Ur. During this activity we discussed how the work of art was hallow, made out of different materials from around the world, and mainly had registers that created a story. In my cases I was able to think critically because my opinions about the work of art were backed up by physical evidence that I gathered using Formal Analysis. From now on I am more aware about what to look for when looking at art. Furthermore I am more conscious about formal analysis when I look at advertisements on the subway.

My Comment on a Colleague’s Blog Post (My Art Story- Alexis Felicianio)


I completely agree with you that art is a way to express yourself depending on what you are going through on a daily basis. Those who create art do it for themselves and for the world to resonate or interpret the work of art on their own. I love the fact that you see make-up in an artistic way and that you wear it with pride and show it off! In my case my form of art is drawing. In my post I expressed that I find art in the human body in general. Therefore I chose this post to comment on because make up is something I actually find artistic too. The reason being is that it takes creativity and time and tools to make the perfect cat-eye or to make the eye-brows to be on fleek. Furthermore whenever I see an interesting body (depends on lots of things eg. attractive, non-attractive, strong, weak, etc) I stare and try to draw it. I know of artists who choose to paint the human body and in my case I have no talent what so ever but I try.


Formal Analysis

As a modern society everyone is exposed to images and pictures in whatever modern device they are using. However people cannot really take in an image and break it down in order to fully understand all its elements that is made out of. In art history the method to analyze an image is called Formal Analysis. Formal Analysis is used to describe a work of art and more than analyzing what the image means, the concept focuses on what elements were used in order to make the work of art. Some of these elements are, composition, tone, colors, lines, depth, lighting, scale, modeling, material, texture and historical context. This elements are helpful when looking at art because it helps the view  understand why the artist used them in the first place.



Pedagogy and Power

Paulo Freire was a Brazilian educator and philosopher who wrote an influential book called Pedagogy of the Oppressed. In this book he touches on the idea of education where he states that the learning method is most likely the “Banking Model”. Freire refers to the banking model in order to criticize the way education is provided to the student. In his own words Freire says that students’s brains are like an empty container that can only be filled with knowledge from the teacher. Furthermore in the classroom only the teacher is allowed to talk and is the only person wise and knowledgeable. In the other hand, the student is not to speak nor challenge the knowledge given to him/her. This method clearly empowers the “intelligent” teacher and oppresses the student.

In my own case, I have experienced the banking model while I was in First and Second grade. I studied in Mexico my whole elementary school, but in the beginning I had the same teacher for two years. She was very mean. If any of the students had a question she would tell us to shut up, literally, and she would follow that sentence with “you are only allowed to speak when I ask you to.” She also used violence as a learning method because she would hit the students with a metallic ruler which would provoke tears on us. The only acceptable knowledge came from her and only her. It is until now that I have learned what that experience is called. However during that time the only positive thing I could get was to continue into third grade where teachers where more humane. 

Blog Post 2: My Art Story

I understand that art is all around us, from people singing and dancing in the subway to tall buildings and historic monuments and structures all around the city. I believe that anything that makes me feel something as soon as I see it or hear it, most of the time contains artistic background in a way. For most people when they hear art, they will most likely say something similar or the same, that art is emotive.

I have walked around the city, I have take pictures, seen people dancing in times square, heard people singing in the trains and visited museums. But all my life I have been surrounded by people, wherever I go there is people therefore since a very young age I found myself noticing the human body and their facial expressions as something artistic. For example if I see a beautiful woman with an 80’s outfit walking along the city I would like to photograph it because it makes me feel like she is bringing back time. If I see a child crying as its ice cream cone is melting I would also like to photograph it because it would make me feel empathy. If I see a muscular man I also find it artistic because it would portray strength and hard work. However if I see a couple embracing in nature under the moonlight and a million of stars and fire flies light the vast terrains I would most likely photograph it or better yet, even try to draw it (even though I do not know how to draw). I would take such actions because it would make me feel honest love and romance and beauty and serenity and aww and a bunch of feelings. Furthermore I find dance, music, and acting art too.

In class, I look forward to understanding where art comes from and fully comprehend what causes art, and how art has influenced our world today.