Top Ten Realist Painters

Top Ten Realist Painters

Anders Zorn

       Realism in the arts may be generally defined as the attempt to represent subject matter truthfully without artificiality and avoiding artistic conventions, implausible, exotic and supernatural elements. In its most specific sense, Realism was an artistic movement that began in France in the 1850’s, after the 1848 Revolution. Realists rejected Romanticism, which had dominated French literature and art since the late 18th century. Realism revolted against the exotic subject matter and exaggerated emotionalism and drama of the Romantic movement. Instead it sought to portray real and typical contemporary people and situations with truth and accuracy, and not avoiding unpleasant or sordid aspects of life. Realist works depicted people of all classes in situations that arise in ordinary life, and often reflected the changes wrought by the Industrial and Commercial Revolutions. The popularity of such ‘realistic’ works grew with the introduction of photography — a new visual source that created a desire for people to produce representations which look “objectively real.” More generally, realist works of art are those that, in revealing a truth, may emphasize the ugly or sordid, such as works of social realism, regionalism, or Kitchen sink realism. The movement even managed to impact on opera, where it is called Verismo, with contemporary working-class heroines such as Carmen, who works in a cigarette factory, and Mimi in La bohème.

  1. Anders Zorn (1860-1920)
    Anders Zorn
    Anders Zorn was born in Mora on February 18, 1860. He was the son of Grudd Anna Andersdotter, usually called Mona, “mother” in Mora dialect. Her family were farmers and she contributed to the family’s income by working elsewhere. She had seasonal work in a brewery in Uppsala where she met the German brewer Leonhard Zorn, who became her son’s father. There was no discussion of marriage and Anders Zorn never met his father who died in Helsinki in 1872. But the son was acknowledged and allowed to carry his father’s name.
    Links: Top Ten Paintings by Anders Zorn,,
  2. Diego Rivera (1886-1957)

    Diego Rivera (December 8, 1886 – November 24, 1957), full name Diego María de la Concepción Juan Nepomuceno Estanislao de la Rivera y Barrientos Acosta y Rodríguez, was a Mexican painter and muralist, born in Guanajuato, Guanajuato, of Jewish Converso heritage. Rivera went to Paris, France, to live and work with the great gathering of artists in Montparnasse where his friend Amedeo Modigliani painted his portrait in 1914. In his undisciplined and increasingly violent private life, Rivera fathered several children from brief affairs, abandoning all of them. Whilst still married to Angelina Beloff, who bore him a son who died during earliest infancy, Rivera embarked on a relationship with the Russian emigrée Cubist painter Marie Vorobieff-Stebelska, known also by the nickname Marevna given her by Maxim Gorky, who herself in 1919 bore Rivera a daughter, named Marika.
    Links: Top Ten Paintings and Murals by Diego Rivera, Top Ten Paintings by Frida Kahlo,
  3. Ilya Repin (1844-1930)

    Ilyá Yefímovich Repin was born on July 24, 1844 in Chuguev near Kharkov (now part of Ukraine). His father was a military officer. In 1866 he went to Saint Petersburg and was admitted to the Imperial Academy of Arts as a student. Repin sojourned in Italy and Paris on the Academy’s allowance from 1873 to 1876. He painted a large number of peasants, fishwomen and scenes from merchant life. Ilya Repin joined the Association of Peredvizhniki Artists in 1878. From 1882 he lived in Saint Petersburg but made frequent tours abroad. Inspired by Rembrandt’s portraits of old people, he painted many of his celebrated compatriots, including Leo Tolstoy, Dmitri Mendeleev, Pobedonostsev, and Mussorgsky. In 1903 he was commissioned by the Russian government to paint his most grandiose design, a 400 x 877 cm canvas representing a ceremonial session of the State Council. After the 1917 October Revolution, his home Penaty (literally, “the Penates”), located to the north from Saint Petersburg, was incorporated into Finland. He was invited by Lenin to come back to Russia but was too old to make a journey. He died in Kuokkala, Finland (now Repino, Leningrad Oblast) on September 29, 1930. The Penates are part of the World Heritage Site Saint Petersburg and Related Groups of Monuments
    Links: Top Ten Paintings by Ilyá Repin,,
  4. Edgar Degas (1834-1917)

    Born Edgar Hilaire Germain de Gas in Paris, France, he was the oldest of five children. Madame de Gas belonged to a French family that settled in America. Degas was fond of his mother and her death in 1847 was a deep personal tragedy for Degas. His father, a banker, encouraged his son’s artistic inclination. He received a classical education at Lycee Louis-le-Grand from 1845 to 1852.
    Links: Top Ten Paintings by Edgar Degas, Top Ten Impressionist Painters, Top Ten Impressionist Paintings,,
  5. Carl Larsson (1853-1919)
    Self Portrait
    Carl Larsson was born May 28, 1853 in Prästgatan No.78, a house on the Tyska Stallplan in Gamla stan, the old town in Stockholm. His parents were extremely poor and his childhood was not happy. Renate Puvogel, in her book Larsson, gives plenty of information about his life: “His mother was thrown out of the house, together with Carl and his brother Johan; after enduring a series of temporary dwellings, the family moved into Grev Magnigränd No.7 (later No.5) in what was then Ladugårdsplan, present-day Östermalm. As a rule, each room was home to three families; penury, filth and vice thrived there, leisurely seethed and smoldered  eaten-away and rotten bodies and souls. Such an environment is the natural breeding ground for cholera,” he wrote in his autobiographical novel Me (Jag, Stockholm, 1931, p.21). Carl’s father was also a good-for-nothing who worked as a casual laborer, sailed as a stoker on a ship headed for Scandinavia, and lost the lease to a nearby mill, only to end up there later as a mere grain carrier. Larsson portrays him as a loveless man lacking self-control; he drank, ranted and raved, and incurred lifelong anger of his son through his outburst “I curse the day you were born.” In contrast, Carl’s endlessly working mother provided for their everyday needs through her job as a laundress. Carl’s artistic talent was probably inherited from his grandfather on his mother’s side, who was a painter by trade. However, at the age of thirteen, his teacher Jacobsen, at the school for poor children urged him to apply to the “principskola” of the Royal Swedish Academy of Arts, and he was admitted. During his first years there, Larsson felt socially inferior, confused, and shy. In 1869, at the age of sixteen, he was promoted to the “antique school” of the same academy. There Larsson gained confidence, and even became a central figure in student life. Carl earned his first medal in nude drawing. During the mean time, Larsson worked as a caricaturist for the humorous paper Kasper and as graphic artist for the newspaper Ny Illustrerad Tidning. His annual wages were sufficient to allow him to help his parents out financially.
    Links: Top Ten Paintings by Carl Larsson,
  6. Thomas Eakins (1844-1916)

           Thomas Cowperthwaite Eakins was born on July 25, 1844 in Philadelphia (USA). He graduated at the High School of Philadelphia and then went to Paris to study art at the L’Ecole des Beaux-Arts. He then returned to Philadelphia and started teaching painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fina Arts.
    Links: Top Ten Paintings by Thomas Eakins,
  7. Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009)

    Andrew Newell Wyeth was born on July 12, 1917. The youngest of five children of Newell Convers and Carolyn Bockius Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth was home-tutored and learned art from his father. In 1937 at age twenty, he had his first one-man exhibition of watercolors at Macbeth Gallery in New York City. The entire inventory of paintings quickly sold out, and Wyeth’s career was launched. In October 1945 Andrew Wyeth’s father and his three-year-old grandson were killed when their car stalled on railroad tracks near their home and was struck by a train. Wyeth has referred to his father’s death as a formative emotional event in his artistic career, in addition to a personal tragedy. It was shortly after this time that Wyeth’s art consolidated into his mature and enduring style, characterized by a subdued color palette, highly realistic renderings, and the depiction of emotionally charged symbolic objects.
    Links: Top Ten Paintings By Andrew Wyeth,,
  8. Edward Hopper (1882-1967)

    Edward Hopper was born in the small Hudson River town of Nyack, New York State on the July 22, 1882. After his high school education, Edward Hopper went to the New York School of Art to study commercial art and painting. There he met what would become his greatest artistic influence: artist Robert Henri. Robert Henri was an Realist painter who urged his students to depict all aspects of urban life. In 1906 Hopper briefly went to visit Europe (and Paris in particular). Edward Hopper particularly admired the great effects the Impressionists could reach with outdoor light.
    Links: Top Ten Paintings by Edward Hopper,,
  9. George Bellows (1882-1925)

    George Bellows was born in Columbus, Ohio on August 19, 1882. He attended Ohio State University from 1901 until 1904, where he was encouraged to become a professional baseball player because of his talent, but lacked the interest. He worked as a commercial illustrator while a student, and though he continued to accept magazine assignments throughout his life, Bellows desired enough success as a painter to avoid having to rely on illustration for income. He left OSU in 1904 without graduating and moved to New York City to study art. Bellows was soon a student of Robert Henri at the New York School of Art, and became associated with Henri’s “The Eight” and the Ashcan School, a group of artists who advocated painting contemporary American society in all its forms. By 1906, Bellows was renting his own studio.
    Links: Top Ten Paintings by George Bellows,,
  10. Gustave Courbet (1819-1877)

    Gustave Courbet was born in Ornans (Doubs) on June 10, 1819, into a prosperous farming family which wanted him to study law, he went to Paris in 1839, and worked at the studio of Steuben and Hesse. An independent spirit, he soon left, preferring to develop his own style by studying Spanish, Flemish and French painters and painting copies of their work. His first works were an Odalisque, suggested by the writing of Victor Hugo, and a Lélia, illustrating George Sand, but he soon abandoned literary influences for the study of real life. A trip to the Netherlands in 1847 strengthened Courbet’s belief that painters should portray the life around them, as Rembrandt, Hals, and the other Dutch masters had done.
    Links: Top Ten Paintings by Gustave Courbet,,
  11. Édouard Manet (1832-1883)
    Édouard Manet
    Édouard Manet (January 23, 1832 – April 30, 1883) was a noted French painter. One of the first 19th century artists to approach modern-life subjects, his works bridged the gap between realism and Impressionism.
    Links: Top Ten Paintings by Édouard Manet,,
  12. Honoré Daumier (1808-1879)

    Born in Marseille on February 26, 1808, Honoré Daumier showed in his youth an irresistible inclination towards the artistic profession, which his father vainly tried to check by placing him first with a huissier and subsequently with a bookseller. Having mastered the techniques of lithography, Daumier started his artistic career by producing plates for music publishers, and illustrations for advertisements; followed by anonymous work for publishers, in which he followed the style of Charlet and displayed considerable enthusiasm for the Napoleonic legend.
    Links: Top Ten Paintings by Honoré Daumier,,
  13. Frederick Walker (1840-1875)

    Frederick Walker, the son of a William Walker, a jeweler  was born in 1840. After a brief education at the North London Collegiate School, Walker found employment in an architect’s office. Walker had always been keen on drawing and for a short period in 1858 became a student at the Royal Academy. At the end of 1858 Walker became an apprentice to the wood engraver, Josiah Wood. The following year Frederick Walker’s engravings began appearing in magazines including Good Words, Once a Week and Everybody’s Journal. In 1860 William Makepeace Thackeray began using his illustrations for his new journal, the Cornhill Magazine. This included the illustrations for Thackeray’s novel, the Adventures of Philip that was published in 1862.
    Links: Top Ten Paintings by Frederick Walker,,
  14. Eugène Verboeckhoven (1798-1881)
    Eugène Verboeckhoven
    Eugène-Joseph Verboeckhoven was born in Warneton on June 8, 1798 and was the son and student of Barthelemy Verboeckhoven – the Belgian sculptor. Eugene began his career as a sculptor, but quickly turned his attentions to painting. He studied with Balthazar Ommeganck (1755 – 1826), who was considered one of the finest sheep painters of his time, and took classes at the Academy in Gent under A. Voituron.
    Links: Top Ten Paintings by Eugène Verboeckhoven,,
  15. Rosa Bonheur (1822-1899)

    Marie-Rosalie Bonheur, usually called Rosa Bonheur (March 16, 1822 – May 25, 1899) was a French realist painter and sculptor. Her father was a landscape painter taught by Henri de Saint-Simon. She was the sister of artist Auguste Bonheur and sculptor Isidore Jules Bonheur and the instructor of Anna Elizabeth Klumpke, with whom she lated resided. She was taught to paint by her father since, as a female, she could not at the time attend art school. She showed a great affinity for animals, and made them her specialty. She was influenced by the English animal painter Edward Landseer. She also studied animal anatomy by visiting slaughterhouses and performing dissections. She prepared sketches by such means, as well as from life, and prepared detailed studies before beginning to work on her paintings and sculptures.
    Links: Top Ten Paintings by Rosa Bonheur, Top Ten Female Painters, Top 100 Female Artists,,
  16. Henri Fantin-Latour (1836-1904)

           Henri Fantin-Latour was born January 14, 1836 in the town of Grenoble, France. Art was in his blood because his father, Théodore Fantin-Latour, was an art teacher and a portrait painter. When Henri was 5 years old, the family moved to Paris. Henri’s father encouraged him to draw at young age and Henri ended up at the famous Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Starting from 1853, Fantin-Latour found his inspiration in copying the works exposed in the Louvre.
    Links: Top Ten Paintings by Henri Fantin-Latour,
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