11+ Realism Paintings That Recite The Era’s Untold Stories

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The portrayal of the world from an artist’s perspective—hmm, that sounds amazing!

Also, when it comes to depicting exactly the subject matter for the painting, realists were the real OGs.

They created some of the most famous realism paintings.

The ongoing French and industrial revolutions in the 18th century led to realism, which led to the ultimate realism movement in art.

Realism is mostly confused with “naturalism,” but trust me, they are not the same! 

Referring simply to the narrative, “realism” is the true representation and depiction of the subject.

On the other hand, naturalism is based on the subject’s outward appearance and refers to them in their natural state.

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During the revolutionary era, artists embraced realism in paintings as a means of expression. 

So, here are some of the best realism paintings from the era that depict an untold tale.

1. Olympia by Edouard Manet

A famous realism painting by Edouard Manet named Olympia
Image Source: wikipedia

Edouard Manet was one of the most famous names in the art world and a key painter in the realism art movement.

Manet used to praise female figurines a lot in his works, most of them were nude paintings in which women were the subject of the painting.

As soon as Manet’s painting Olympia was put on display, controversies started to emerge, and he received harsh criticism for his realist creations.

In this painting, Manet has represented a lower-class prostitute who is lying on a bed with a seductive gaze on her face.

There’s a maid beside her who is standing with some flowers in her hand, which might be from her lover.

This photo represents high-class society’s definition of decency and is one of the best examples of realism in art.

This realism painting is now housed in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.

(Also Read: Dogs Playing Poker Painting)

2. The Angelus by Jean Francois Millet

The Angelus by Jean Francois Millet
Image Source: wikipedia

This is one of the best realist paintings by Jean-François Millet. He created this between 1857 and 1859. 

This realistic artwork represents Millet’s desire to shine a light on the lives of the French peasants, who have gone through hardships.

Additionally, it was to inform those who belonged to the aristocratic society about and about life outside of their social circle.

In The Angelus, Millet depicts two farm laborers with their heads bowed and reciting the prayer after a hard day’s workout in the field. 

It is a sunset kind of situation, and at around 6 p.m., the prayer bells ring, and it looks like both laborers have begun to pray.

The Angelus was a well-known prayer for deliverance during the time of Roman Catholicism which was perfectly captured by the painter in this Realism painting.

The lowest class in society is depicted in this painting performing a simple act of devotion and prayer for salvation.

This painting was one of the most intriguing Realism artworks and the characteristics of Realism is showcased with perfection. 

This Realism painting is now housed in the Musée d’Orsay, Paris.

Suggested Read: Famous Landscape Paintings

3. Christina’s World by Andrew Wyeth

A realism painting by Andrew Wyeth
Image Source: www.greenvilleonline.com

This artwork looks like any other realism painting from the era, but wait till you get to know the meaning behind it!

Christina’s World was created in 1948 and is among the most famous American paintings from the mid-20th century.

This painting was created by one of the best American realist painters Andrew Wyeth, and the woman in the painting is Anna Christina Olson.

Andrew used to live in South Cushing, Maine, where Miss Olson was his neighbor and where he created this famous realism painting of the 19th century. 

Miss Olson couldn’t walk because of a degenerative muscular disorder.

Andrew painted this work when polio was at its peak in America, and he saw Miss Olson crawling in the field, which gave him the idea for this realism art piece. 

When this painting was freshly created, it received slow reactions from the audience, but with time, this realist artwork became an icon of American art.

This is the most important work of American realism and is now housed at the Museum of Modern Art, New York City, U.S.

Suggested Read: Pop art movement

4. Whistler’s Mother by James McNeil Whistler

Whistler's mother by James McNeil Whistler is a famous realism painting.
Image Source: wamc

What if I told you that one of the most famous realist portraits was the result of a canceled appointment?

Believe it or not, that is the story behind the creation of the artwork by James McNeil Whistler, “Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1.” 

This famous realism art is best known as ‘Whistler’s Mother’ or ‘Portrait of Artist’s Mother’.

While residing in London with her son at Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, Anna McNeill Whistler, James’ mother, posed for the picture.

James McNeil Whistler was an American-born, British-based painter who was famous for his monogram and paintings of nocturnal London. 

This artwork by James became the first American work purchased by the French state in 1891. 

The piece epitomizes Whistler’s revolutionary approach to modifying the tones of single colors. 

This American realism painting is now housed in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, France, and is one of the most important American artworks outside of the States.

Suggested Read: Best Pop Art Paintings

5. Nighthawks by Edward Hopper

Nighthawks by Edward Hopper is a famous painting from the realism era.
Image Source: wikipedia

Nighthawks is a Realism painting that paved the way for modern art and also paid more attention to bringing the subject to life.

This realism painting is considered to be one of the most engaging artworks in art history. 

A Manhattan restaurant on Greenwich Avenue served as the inspiration for the artwork. 

Edward Hopper, in this realism painting, portrayed a scene from a restaurant on the streets of New York, which represents the after-effects of the Second World War. 

It is a gloomy scene that depicts few people sitting in the restaurant, even in a city like New York where the streets are always busy.

Edward Hopper was one of the most famous American painters, and his work influenced other American artists who stepped into pop culture. 

This globally renowned artwork is now safely placed in the Art Institute of Chicago, U.S.

Suggested Read: Composition 8 by Wassily Kandinsky

6. The Horse Fair by Rosa Bohnear

A famous painting by Rosa Bohnear which is The horse Fair.
Image Source: wikipedia

The Horse Fair is a realism painting by Rosa Bohnear, one of the most famous female realist painters of the 18th century.

She was one of the most famous artists of realism whose artwork revolved around animals and nature. 

This realistic painting, The Horse Fair, depicts a horse market held at Boulevard de l’Hôpital in Paris.

This Rosa Bohnear’s artwork needed a lot of effort from the painter, such as her cross-dressing herself as a man to be able to stay in the marketplace.

She half-made the sketches at the marketplace, and then she completed this famous masterpiece.

This painting was not only praised by art collectors around the world but was also praised by Queen Victoria.  

In 1853, “The Horse Fair” was displayed at the Paris Salon and was shown throughout Europe and the U.S. later.

The display of the painting in international art galleries brought Bonheur fame and recognition.

This artwork is now housed in The MET, New York City, U.S.

7. The Bellelli Family by Edgar Degas

The famous painting of the Bellelli Family by Edgar Degas.
Image Source: wikipedia

Edgar Degas, one of the most famous French artists, completed his studies in art in Italy. He painted his family portrait. 

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This realistic painting was completed between 1858 and 1867, making it one of the most prominent examples of realism in art. 

Edgar has painted the Family Portrait, which features his aunt Laura, her husband Gennaro Bellelli, and their two young daughters, Giulia and Giovanna.

This painting is one of the most famous realism art examples, as in the artwork, Laura, his father’s sister, is featured in a dress that symbolizes mourning.

It is believed that her father recently died and appears in the realistic art in the framed portrait behind her.

Also, the daughters and the mother tend to share a close bond, whereas Laura’s husband seems to be engaged with his business more. 

It is believed that the artist drew every figure individually and then later combined them to form one of the most famous realistic paintings.

It is also said that this painting is oil on canvas, which shows that Edgar has showcased his skills in this realist artwork, which he learned in Italy’s art school.

This one-of-a-kind realism painting is housed at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.

Suggested Read: Sunflowers by Van Gogh

8. The Elder Sister by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

A realism painting by William
Image Source: wikipedia

The Elder Sister is a realism painting by William-Adolphe Bouguereau that focuses on even minute details. 

This painting, which consists of William’s daughter Henriette and his son, Paul and is a perfect example of a realistic painting.

The painting shows Henriette seated comfortably on a boulder, carrying her little brother, who was fast asleep. 

The painter has also focused on the landscape filled with greenery on the beautiful horizon behind Henriette.

This painting is now placed in the “Arts of Europe” section of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and is one of the most cherished paintings in the European collection. 

Suggested Read: Famous Paintings of All Time In the History of Art

9. The Stone Breakers by Gustave Courbet

The Stone Breakers by Gustave Courbet.
Image Source: wikipedia

Gustave Courbet, the leader of the Realism movement, worked his way through the paintings from the era. 

He painted this painting in 1849. He covered how the lower-class peasants were struggling to make ends meet. 

Even though he received immense backlash from the people of the French Salon, he still received a lot of praise from the community of the working class. 

In his painting The Stone Breakers, Courbet portrayed two peasants who appeared to be breaking rocks for the construction of a road.

He created a painting that was well received by members of the working class simply by depicting a scene from the scene he saw.

This painting was unfortunately one of the artworks destroyed during the Second World War.

10. The Third-Class Carriage by Honoré Daumier

The Third Class Carriage by Honore Daumier.
Image Source: britancia

Honoré Daumier was considered one of the best French Realism painters of the eighteenth century.

He painted a series of paintings of the third-class carriage between 1862 and 1864, in which he depicted the life of the peasants. 

He described the conditions of the lower classes as well as the effects of industrialization on France’s contemporary urban life. 

The people that he drew in his painting are so exhausted, and that is visible on their faces.

However, the Third-Class Carriage turned out to be the most significant of the realism examples of the era. 

Daumier also painted train scenes from the first- and second-class compartments. 

This realism painting is now housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and was one of the pillars of the realism movement in art.

Suggested Read: Paintings By Kandinsky  

11. The Gross Clinic by Thomas Eakins

The Gross Clinic is a famous realism painting by Thomas Eakins.
Image Source: wkipedia

When talking about realist paintings or American realists, we can never miss the creations of Thomas Eakins.

He was one of the famous American painters of the eighteenth century who gave life to some of the most famous realistic art examples.

He painted The Gross Clinic in 1875, especially in the mid-18th century when medical developments were taking place. 

Eakins showcased an immense craze for medicines in his paintings, which led to “The Gross Clinic” becoming one of the most famous paintings from the era.

The Gross Clinic is basically a snapshot of a lecture that was taught by the 70-year-old lecturer, Dr. Samuel D. Gross.

Gross is seen in the middle of the painting in a black coat. It is assumed that he is giving a lecture about the ongoing surgery.  

To Gross’ right shoulder is his clinic clerk, Dr Franklin West, who can be seen taking notes of the ongoing operation.

The room is full of eager students, and in the left corner of the painting, Eakins has painted himself as well.

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In the painting, only one woman can be seen, and that too in an emotional state, presumably crying.

This painting pays attention to the smallest details, making it one of the most famous realistic art paintings.

This American Realism art can be seen nowadays in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia.

12. Portrait of an Unknown Woman by Ivan Kramskoi

Portrait of an unknown woman by Ivan Kramskoi.
Image Source: wikipedia

Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoi was a well-known Russian painter as well as an esteemed art critic.

Between 1860 and 1880, he served as an intellectual leader of the Wanderers art movement.

Ivan Kramskoi’s 1883 work, Portrait of an Unknown Woman, is a well-known example of realism.  

This painting is also widely known by the names “The Unknown Woman” or “An Unknown Lady.” 

This painting by the Russian realist is one of Russia’s best-known artworks to date.

A woman of “quiet strength and forthright gaze,” the model’s identity is unknown, and it depicts the characteristics of realism art with perfection.

Portrait of an Unknown Woman, one of the Russian Realism paintings housed by the Tretyakov Gallery, in Moscow, Russia.  

13. Head of a Skeleton with a Burning Cigarette by Vincent van Gogh

A famous painting by Vincent Van Gogh from the realism era, named Head of a skeleton with a burning cigarette.
Image Source: wikipedia

Vincent van Gogh created the well-known painting The Skull of a Skeleton with a Burning Cigarette between 1885 and 1886. 

This painting is an example of realism art which depicts a skeleton with a freshly lit cigarette in one of the skeleton’s uneven teeth.

He paid special attention to the anatomy of the human skull and depicted the smoke going in an upward direction and getting distorted. 

Paintings by Van Gogh always held a special meaning behind them and always tried to portray an essence from the painter’s life. 

This masterpiece is now housed with the other paintings at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, and it depicts the realism art characteristics with efficiency. 

To Wrap It Up

So, this was it from my end about the Realism paintings, their style, and their composition. 

The paintings from the Realism era were a base for modern art and visual art as well.

There are indeed more famous realist paintings from the period that have contributed to the movement being a symbol of expression.

I’ll discuss them in the upcoming blogs sooner or later, so stay tuned!

Author’s Note

Thank you for reading this article about famous realism paintings. 

I have studied and researched in depth and tried to compile it into an article.

Your thoughts matter to me, so feel free to leave your valuable feedback in the comments.

Oh, and we’ve also been meticulously reproducing several famous paintings that have been expertly created to match the perfection of famous works of art. 

If you are interested, then you should: 

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au revoir!


Q1. What does realism paintings mean?

Realism paintings mean the accurate representation of the on-going life events that describe whatsoever is a human suffering through.

Q2. Name three painters who were famously known for realism paintings.

Three painters who were famously known for realism paintings are: Gustav Courbet, Jean-François Millet, and Johannes Vermeer.

Q3. Who is considered as the father of realism art?

Gustave Courbet is considered as the father of realism art.

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