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Impressionism vs Realism. Exploring Aleks Shevchenko’s Works.

When you first start working on the image you want to paint, you make decisions: you think about what materials and tools you will use, how much time you will spend on work, what kind of lighting will be, and so on. When you start repeating these decisions over and over again, you form a style.

Over time, the artist becomes comfortable working under certain constraints – some decisions are so obvious that he begins to perceive them as his own rule. That is why there are innumerable styles. But in all this diversity, you can see patterns that allow you to create a classification. If you’re wondering what impressionism began in what time period and in what country, we recommend you continue reading.

Basic Concepts

Style is the systematic repetition of decisions about art. Typically, a drawing can be broken down into individual components: point, line, shape, weight, color. Also here you can add texture, space, rhythm, composition, and others.

There are three main elements that should be considered first:

●   the form;

●   tone;

●   color.

The easiest way to depict a shape is using the basic elements – dots and lines. Every time you organize points and lines into coherent and perceived groups, you have forms. They can be organic or geometric, simple or complex.

Relationships can also arise between forms. For example, if you arrange them in a certain sequence, then a rhythm will appear. Even the absence of form can form by itself.

The elements of the picture differ in tone – something is darker and something is lighter. To see the differences in tonality, you need to completely remove the colors – then there will be only a range of gray between pure white and pure black. Tonality has several characteristics:

●   the tone can be High Key (then closer to white) or Low Key (closer to black). The entire gray range can also be used;

●   tonality can be high contrast (few gray areas) or low contrast (grayscale takes up most of the image);

●   with tone, you can simulate lighting or ignore it.

Colors are all shades that are included in the color wheel. They are always associated with tone and also have richness. The shade can be warm or cold. Always remember that colors are not perceived separately – when they are in the same composition, they affect each other. If you want to understand what realism is in art, then we recommend that you read this article to the end and study the examples provided by us.

Realism as a Style in Painting

Comparing impressionism vs realism with each other, you can find some similarities. It is not known for certain at what point realism appeared. It seems that people have been striving to recreate a real display of things from the moment they were able to understand that it is possible to make drawings. And yet, realism, as a genre, especially spread in the 19th century, when it began to affect all directions – landscapes, still lifes, portraits. At this moment, the artists became especially active in depicting the life of peasants, displaying real landscapes. And also kings and nobles began to order portraits for themselves in this style in order to be able to convey information to their descendants. This made it possible to draw them more beautiful than they really are. And yet, such graphics continued to look beautiful and realistic. And realism, like no other genre, could convey the real experiences of the characters that were displayed in the paintings. Experts from all over the world agree that the founder of this genre was Gustave Courbet.

By the way, a good example of work in the style of realism is presented by the artist Aleks Shevchenko:

Поле цветов
Aleks Shevchenko, “Poppies”

Impressionism

Many viewers are comparing realism vs impressionism, although this is somewhat incorrect. Impressionism is a painting movement that originated in France in the 1860s. and in many ways determined the development of art in the 19th century. The Impressionists opposed the conventions of classicism and academism, strong, sometimes rebellious passions of romanticism, asserted the beauty of everyday reality, simple, democratic motives, achieved vivid reliability of the image, tried to capture the “impression” of what the eye sees at a particular moment of the present time.

Дом
Aleks Shevchenko, “Sweet Home”

As we can see from the definition of the concept, “impressionism” means a direction in the visual arts, although the ideas and creative methods of impressionism have found their embodiment in other types of art: literature, music. Of the related currents of the decadence stage, symbolism is the closest to impressionism. However, both impressionism and symbolism (as well as decadence) are not stylistic categories, they only reflect some aspects of the creative method. There is both realistic impressionism and a more conceptual one. You need to feel the difference.

Therefore, many artists, starting to work as symbolists (and in a completely academic manner of writing), then moved on to the impressionist method. And in general, this can be said about all currents of modernism. The first important exhibition of the Impressionists was held from April 15 to May 15, 1874, in the studio of the photographer Nadar. There were presented by 30 artists, 165 works in total. The name of the movement is inspired by the title of the painting: “Impression. Soleil Levant “. Translated – “Impression. Sunrise”. There is some connection between realism and impressionism art.

The journalist Louis Leroy, in his article L’Exposition des impressionnistes (“Exhibition of the Impressionists”) in the magazine “Le Charivari”, to express his contempt, called the group “impressionists”. Artists, out of the challenge, accepted this epithet, later it took root, lost its original negative meaning, and came into active use. Monet’s canvas – “Impression. The Rising Sun ”(Impression, soleil levant), is now in the Marmottan Museum (Paris).

Post-Impressionism is a term adopted in art history to designate the main line of development of French art, starting from the second half of the 1880s. until the beginning of the 20th century. The beginning of Post-Impressionism is considered to be 1886 when the last exhibition of the Impressionists took place and the Manifesto of Symbolism by the poet Jean Moreas was published. The term “post-impressionism” was coined by the English critic Roger Fry, speaking of the impression that he organized in London in 1910 in the exhibition of contemporary French art “Manet and the post-impressionism”, which featured works by Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, Seurat, Cezanne, and other artists.

The post-impressionists include representatives of pointillism (J. Seurat, P. Signac), members of the Nabis group, A. de Toulouse-Lautrec. However, the main role in defining the creative method of post-impressionism belonged to P. Cezanne, V. Van Gogh, and P. Gauguin. Each of these masters worked independently and sought their own way in art. They did not belong, like the impressionists, to a single group. There was art before impressionism, which became, in a sense, the predecessor of this style.

The artists were united only by the fact that impressionism was the basis of their creative searches. Almost all of them began their career in art in the mainstream of this trend, using the discoveries of the impressionists in the field of color, composition, painting technique, separate brushstrokes, etc., the surface of the phenomena of life. Each of the participants in this movement sought to rework impressionism in his own way, filling in what he, in their opinion, lacked.

На Десне
Aleks Shevchenko, “On Desna”

Next, let’s look at the terminology of pointillism and neo-impressionism.

1.  Pointillism (from French pointille to write with dots) is a trend in the painting of the late 19th – early 20th centuries, characterized by the manner in which pure colors are applied with separate point strokes. Sometimes referred to as neo-impressionism, and sometimes as post-impressionism. Sometimes it is singled out as a separate small direction in painting. Also sometimes synonymously referred to as divisionism. Giving the following definition: Pointillism, or divisionism, is a stylistic trend in neo-impressionism painting that arose in France around 1885, which is based on the manner of writing with separate (non-isolated) strokes of a regular, point, or rectangular shape.

2.  Divisionism (from the French division) is a pictorial system characteristic of neo-impressionism and developed by J. Seurat and P. Signac; It is based on the methodical decomposition of a complex color tone into pure colors, which are fixed on the canvas with clearly distinguishable separate strokes, based on the optical mixing of these strokes when the viewer perceives the picture. The system was used by A.E. Cross and partly by K. Pissarro in France, G. Segantini in Italy, T. van Reiselberg in Belgium, in some works of I.E.Grabar in Russia.

3.  Neo-impressionism (French neo-impressionism), a trend in painting that arose in France around 1885 (the main representatives were J. Seurat and P. Signac). The term was coined by critic Félix Fénéon in an article for the Belgian newspaper L’art Moderne (Contemporary Art) to distinguish Seurat’s work from the Impressionists. Neo-Impressionism also spread in Belgium (T. van Ruiselberg), Italy (G. Segantini), where the masters of Neo-Impressionism usually combined its techniques with a three-dimensional interpretation of genre compositions and portraits.

As a result, we have the following:

Neo-Impressionism is a definition to denote a trend in French painting of the late 19th century, containing the stylistic direction of pointillism or divisionism, and the modern discoveries of optics at that time. Main feature impressionism – subject matter.

Georges-Pierre Seurat is the founder of neo-impressionism, a French artist who introduced into painting the method of creating paintings by applying on the canvas many adjacent dots of pure contrasting colors (pointillism, or divisionism). Neo-Impressionism influenced many famous painters of the time.

Neo-Impressionism flared up and went out, but made irrevocable changes in world painting. And the point is not only in the technique of applying dots, which, with the light hand of Seurat, was used by many famous artists but also in the fact that Seurat (like Van Gogh) left impressionism and at the same time marked the end of his era. Realism, impressionism are all just part of the trends in art that change every day.

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