Realist Rudeness

People hate French people. In fact, even French people hate French people. However, they really aren’t too bad. People complain about the weather in London, too, but from a Finnish perspective it’s ridiculous. It just rains sometimes. Same thing with French people. Finns value brutal honesty over being nice, and very often we value the brutality part more than the truth. Hence, reality and Realism are much appreciated around these parts.

People who say that photography simply substituted the realist arts and especially painting have not really thought it through. Painting as a craft is a bunch of tricks designed to trick the eye and convey something more than a two dimensional screen should reasonably be expected to convey. Realist painting is a way of presenting truth using these tricks and it makes us think that what we see is objectively the case for everyone. It’s technical, exact, and easy to align with all sorts of agendas because it seems to be modally empty in itself.

What becomes pronounced when you dismiss the reality depicted in Realism is the harshness of the mode, its brutality. Very often it is offensive, and often it is meant to be offensive. Take, for instance, Manet‘s Olympia. The painting refers to a couple of earlier Venus pictures and you can see the harshness that Realism has brought to the subject when you compare them:

Source: Wikipedia

Giorgione’s Sleeping Venus

Source: Wikipedia

Titian’s Venus of Urbino

Source: Wikipedia

And, finally, the Manet.

It would be too much to say that this brutality appeals to people who love the idea that truth and objectivity warrant rudeness, but there has to be something to this idea. We all know people who love being jerks whenever the opportunity presents itself, people who relish the uncomfortableness of uncomfortable truths. Manet seemed to be a guy like this and got into trouble a few times for his bluntness with nudes.

However, he was outdone by a mile by Gustave Courbet, the man who supposedly coined the term Realism. Rather pompous in his rhetoric in his speech as well as his painting, he made this thing and called it L’Origine du monde:

Source: Wikipedia

It was owned by Jaqcues Lacan of all people before it ended up at Musée d’Orsay, and for some reason I find that really funny. Again, there are harsh colors and unbridled rudeness. It leads one to think that non-realist modes of representation and presentation, whatever they may be, truly are the pants of society. Once this nagging insistence on rudeness becomes clear, the reaction against Realism makes much more sense. Given enough Realism even the greatest subjects become interpretations by drama queens.

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