I’m not too fond of “realism”, as so often the subject matter is painted devoid of emotion and focuses instead on technical details that can become superfluous. However, there are a number of painters in the realist movement which have avoided this aesthetic pitfall and created imagery that is at once visually meticulous and emotionally gratifying. Swedish painter Anders Zorn combined the bold brush strokes and introspection of impressionism with the attention to detail and objectivity of realism. What makes him stand out from so many realist painters is that he managed to capture not just the image of his subjects, but also their emotional states and characteristics. For this reason he’s one of my favorite Swedish artists.
William-Adolphe Bouguereau is perhaps one of the great heroes of the Academic art movement. His works are vividly brought to life in a manner that is at once realistic and yet also idealized. While Bouguereau confined himself to the traditional Victorian values of Academicism and Realism, the images that he managed to create during his lifetime are iconic and timeless, though he has not been treated as kindly as his contemporaries by many art historians. Often drawing on themes of gentle eroticism, the juxtaposition of beautiful women with nature, and the bittersweet reminisces of childhood, Bouguereau painted in a way that could be emotionally evocative in its realistic depiction of everyday life, but also dreamily intoxicating in the way that he romanticized human sexuality and sexual innocence.
Controversial Masterpieces: Censorship Of Classical Art From The Renaissance Through The 19th Century
Whether the church’s chiseling the genitalia off of ancient statues or painting over blasphemous elements in a mural, art has been a contested territory, and there has been a long history of suppressing art that challenged the social mores of its day or expressed ideas deemed as obscene or heretical. Perhaps because art existed before the written word, before most other physical mediums of expression, it could be argued that art was the first form of communication outside of verbal speech to be censored. In the world of art, censorship often takes on three forms, either a work of art is expurgated (altered to exclude content that may offend), removed from public view, or destroyed altogether. The latter is rare since most cultures around the world hold art in high esteem and don’t wish to see its destruction regardless of its perceived objectionable qualities. Expurgation or obscurement has been more common.