Essay #1-Social Realism
By painting people and images of lower-class life, painters like Caravaggio changed
the art world forever.
Artists were no longer limited to painting religious scenes or
portraits of the nobility.
Social realism and genre painting became standard practice in
works of art.
Thanks to Caravaggio and his contemporaries, future masters from
Velazquez to David to Picasso would continue to improve on the social realist movement.
The Spanish Baroque painter Diego Velazquez is one of the most influential and
acclaimed painters of all time.
Water Carrier of Seville
, depicts an
unremarkable scene from daily life, while illustrating how the artist arranged the objects
in his work with a stern, mathematical rigor.
The Surrender at Breda
innovative in the way it portrays triumph in battle.
While the painting itself represents
ideal gentlemanly conduct, Velazquez also shows the convincing reality of the scene with
the bright colors, texture, and portraitlike faces of the soldiers.
depicted the lower class when he painted his valet in
Juan de Pareja
Another social realist, Rembrandt van Rijn painted works in Amsterdam such as
The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp
, which is one of the first group portraits to take
on dramatic interest instead of painting simple rows faces.
Rembrandt went on to create
an even more dramatic group portrait in
The Night Watch
, which portrays a group of
soldiers and local townspeople forming a parade in a city street.
Nearly 130 years after
Rembrandt’s death, a French painter named Jacques-Louis David became the world’s
preeminent social realist painter.
Oath of Horatii
, which used strict geometry
and strident color, eventually became the emblem of the French Revolution.
It shows a
lesson in Republican citizenship and the sacrifices that one must make for the state.
David also proved his excellence in naturalism in the painting
Death of Marat
shows a slain French patriot and friend to the revolution.
Thirty years after the French Revolution, Gericault painted his famous work
, Raft of
The painting, depicting a scandalous shipwreck incident, shows the
“forgotten poor” who were abandoned by their aristocratic captain.
In his work,
Gericault placed a black man at the top of the “survivor pyramid.”
This overt symbolism
represents the artists’ belief that freedom for humanity will only occur when the most
oppressed people are emancipated.
Complimenting his paintings, Gericault’s lithographs
also show the plight of the poor.
Another French realist, Millet, focused his artworks on
the difficulties and simple pleasures of the peasantry.
The former can be seen in
, which shows three women who live in extreme poverty.
contemporary, Gustave Courbet, a Socialist and revolutionary, also painted democratic
themes in his works.
A Burial at Ornans
shows the funeral of a fallen patriot, and the
painting as a whole is a symbolic representation for the advancement of democracy in