Social realism

DEFINITION

A type of realism which is more overtly political in content, critical of society, marked by its realistic depiction of social problems. Paintings by Jean Fran?ois Millet (French, 1814-75), a painter associated with the Barbizon school, such as The Gleaners (1857, Louvre), is considered an early example of social realism. The greatest impact of this art movement was felt in the first half of the twentieth century, however. Mexican muralists Diego Rivera (1886-1957), Jos? Clemente Orozco (1883-1949), and David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896-1974) strongly influenced many North American social realist and New Deal artists. Some of these northern artists emerged from the Ashcan school, while others, like Ben Shahn (American, 1898-1969), evolved separately. Be careful not to confuse social realism with socialist realism.Quote: "Early in his career, Shahn understood that for him art had to tell a story, had to engage its times, and not merely mimic Europe's master painters. The Passion of Sacco and Vanzetti, . . . propelled Shahn to the forefront of the American Social Realists, a group of artists whose gritty images of contemporary society attacked injustice and dehumanization and expressed a common passion for social justice." Jack Curtis, "In the Streets and in the Studio, the art and activism of Ben Shahn", Harvard Magazine, March-April, 2000. Also see American Scene painting and isms and -ism.

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