European society was changing quickly by the middle of the 19th century, and some felt that art was failing to keep up. Realist artists yearned for a way of making art truly reflective of the modern world. As the poet and art critic Charles Baudelaire wrote in 1845, ‘there is no lack of subjects, or of colours, to make epics. The painter, the true painter for whom we are looking will be he who can snatch its epic quality from the life of today, and can make us see and understand, with brush or with pencil, how great and poetic we are in our cravats and our patent-leather boots’.
Realism paved the way for Impressionism and later developments, by introducing subjects and styles beyond those traditionally seen in traditional academic ‘high art’.
Among the highlights of our 19th Century European Paintings sale on 9 July is a rediscovered landscape by Gustave Courbet, an artist synonymous with Realism. In turn, Realism is the thread which connects several works in the sale across nationalities and periods.