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Constantin Meunier 1: Cigar-making, fishermen, and family
In the late nineteenth century, there were many individual artists whose paintings didn’t really conform to any particular school, so defy classification. Constantin Meunier (1831–1905) is a good example: although many of his works have features in common with Naturalism, and he seems to have had connections with Naturalist... Read more
Painting Reality: 5 Growth of the city
The original focus of Naturalism was the plight of the rural poor, but as it evolved and gathered momentum in the 1880s, Naturalist painters also looked at the growing problems of cities and those who tried to survive in them. In terms of sheer numbers of paintings, depictions of... Read more
Painting Reality: 4 Art and the State
Many Naturalist paintings depicted the plight of the rural poor during the early years of the French Third Republic, which was hailed for the reforms which its politicians promised. One of the major accounts of Naturalism in France at that time, by Richard Thomson, considers at length the relationship... Read more
Surgery, sinners, and soirées: the paintings of Henri Gervex
Having come across the ‘naturalism’ of Christian Krohg, I’m going to look at a few artists who have been grouped with him in this mysterious movement. It’s not an easy task, because ‘naturalism’ was really defined not in the visual arts, but in literature, with Émile Zola (1840-1902) as... Read more
The Rise of the Clinic: 2, hospitals
As the medical profession developed in the nineteenth century, the centres of growing medical power were the hospitals and their clinics. They developed the foundations of medical science, on which the new profession depended, and taught future generations of doctors. Typical of these re-invented institutions was the Salpêtrière (now... Read more
The Naturalism of Gustave Caillebotte 2
I started my look at the paintings of Gustave Caillebotte (1848–1894) with one of his few nudes, and by coincidence this second and concluding article starts with the other of his well-known female nudes. On this occasion, his model is believed to have been Anne-Marie Hagen, with whom Caillebotte... Read more
Anatomy lessons, autopsies, and surgery: they’re different
Accustomed as we are to viewing bloody casualty simulations and surgical procedures on TV, Rembrandt’s Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp still strikes many modern viewers as a strange painting. In what at first appears to be another of his wonderful group portraits, said Dr Tulp is in the... Read more
Alexandre Cabanel and his pupils: the pupils
Having looked at the life and work of Alexandre Cabanel, I turn now to representative works of some of his pupils: those who learned their skills, techniques, and perhaps styles and motifs in his teaching atelier at the École des Beaux-Arts. In each case, I show the earliest painting... Read more
Painting Reality: 3 Spread
Naturalism may have emerged in France, thanks at least in part to the Third Republic, but it rapidly became established internationally. This was largely due to Paris, in particular, and France more generally being the focal point of western painting at the time. Literary Naturalism had spread with the... Read more