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In the mid-19th century, Parisian artists cast aside grand myths and idealized heroes, their palettes instead capturing the grit and texture of real life. This was the birth of Realism, a revolutionary movement that forever reshaped the course of art history.

Rejecting the fantastical drama of Romanticism, Realists like Gustave Courbet and Jean-Fran├žois Millet turned their gaze to the everyday. They painted working-class figures, unvarnished scenes of rural labor, and even the grimy underbelly of urban life. Beauty was found not in escapism, but in the raw authenticity of the present.

This shift was more than just subject matter. It was a radical break from artistic hierarchy. Realists defied the Academy's obsession with historical and mythological themes, deeming contemporary life worthy of the canvas. They embraced direct observation, employing meticulous brushwork and a muted palette to depict scenes with unflinching detail.

The implications were profound. Realism challenged societal norms, sparking conversations about social injustice and inequality. Paintings like Courbet's "The Stone Breakers" exposed the harsh realities of the working class, while Millet's "The Gleaners" captured the dignity and hardship of rural life. Art was no longer just decoration; it became a mirror reflecting the social and political currents of the time.

Realism paved the way for modern art movements like Impressionism and Social Realism. By legitimizing everyday life and embracing unheroic subjects, it democratized the artistic lens, forever expanding the boundaries of what art could express and who it could represent. In just over a generation, these revolutionaries of the brush redefined the very purpose of art, leaving an indelible mark on the canvas of history.

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Did You Know?

Did you know that "Realism" as a movement actually has nothing to do with how something looks -- whether it looks "real" or not? The movement is instead about the "realness" of the subject, not if the "real" subject actually looks "realistic."

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