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Painting in the Second Half of the Nineteenth Century During the second half of the nineteenth century the ideal of self-determination fostered by the French Revolution and spread by Napoleon helped spawn a revolutionary spirit across Europe This spirit of rebellion also infected artists of the period Painters began to challenge the philosophy and the aesthetic principles of the academies looking outside these conservative institutions for their training subject matter style and purpose While many artists and critics promoted the status quo others sought change seeing validity in new themes and new approaches To many artists the histories and mythologies still promoted by the academies offered no inspiration and so they turned elsewhere for their subject matter Some looked to nature others to daily life and still others to themes of the worker the poor and the oppressed As they sought alternatives many artists gathered in groups based on common interests Outside the established mainstream of their own time the Realists the Impressionists and the Post- Impressionists broadened the horizons of Western art Gustave Courbet 1819-1877 a self declared Realist rejected the inherent sentimentality of work by the Romantics Courbets interest in portraying things as they really appear together with his nonacademic orientation placed him in the front rank of the quest for realism the premise for much of the artistic activity of the period Michael Wood quotes Courbet as saying It was not my intention of attaining the trivial goal of art for arts sake My aim is to translate the customs the ideas and the appearance of my own epoch as I see them According to Janson The storm broke in 1849 when he exhibited The Stone breakers the first canvas fully embodying his programmatic Realism dcv Courbet was inspired by the complete expression of
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