Realism was an art movement that began in France in the 1850s and later spread to other nations with the most prominent equivalent movements arising in Russia and the U.S. The Realists rejected the then dominant movement of Romanticism, which focused on glorification of the past and of nature. They instead decided to portray, with uncompromising truth and accuracy, the people and situations of the present. The Realists attempted to depict individuals of all social classes and they didn’t avoid the unpleasant and sordid aspects of life. In France, the Realism movement was led by Gustave Courbet and Jean-François Millet. In Russia, the most prominent member of the movement was Ilya Repin. The American Realism movement peaked in the mid-19th century and saw many influential artists including Andrew Wyeth and Edward Hopper. Here are the 10 most famous Realist artists and their most renowned works.


Adolph von Menzel
Adolph von Menzel

#10 Adolph von Menzel

Lifespan: December 8, 1815 – February 9, 1905

Nationality: German

During his time, Adolph Menzel was best known for demonstrating scenes from the life of Frederick the Great. He wanted to capture the monarch as a man who was both hated and admired, simply as he was. Menzel is now also famous for capturing, with amazing detail and precision, the scenes and objects of everyday life. He achieved this due to his exemplary skills as a draftsman. His art not only presents reality with precision but also has an unmatched liveliness to it. Adolph Menzel was the most successful artist of his era in Germany; and along with Caspar David Friedrich, one of the two most prominent German artists of the 19th century.

Masterpiece: Eisenwalzwerk, Iron Rolling Mill (1875)

Eisenwalzwerk, Iron Rolling Mill (1875)
Eisenwalzwerk, Iron Rolling Mill (1875) – Adolph Menzel

Other Famous Works:-

Balcony Room (1845)

Flute Concert with Frederick the Great in Sanssouci (1852)


Thomas Eakins
Thomas Eakins

#9 Thomas Cowperthwait Eakins

Lifespan: July 25, 1844 – June 25, 1916

Nationality: American

A painter, photographer, sculptor and fine arts educator; Thomas Eakins received little recognition during his lifetime but he is now widely considered as one of the most influential figures in American art history. Eakins was interested in bringing out the individuality of his models and created what are now regarded as masterpieces in portraiture. His most renowned work, The Gross Clinic, is “celebrated as a great 19-century medical history painting, featuring one of the most superb portraits in American art”. Apart from his art, Eakins is credited for introducing “the camera to the American art studio” and for being an influential art teacher. He is recognized as the most important realist in American art in 19th and early 20th century.

Masterpiece: The Gross Clinic (1875)

The Gross Clinic (1875)
The Gross Clinic (1875) – Thomas Eakins

Other Famous Works:-

The Agnew Clinic (1889)

Max Schmitt in a Single Scull (1871)


Honore Daumier
Honore Daumier

#8 Honoré-Victorin Daumier

Lifespan: February 26, 1808 – February 10, 1879

Nationality: French

Honore Daumier was one of the leading figures of the Realism art movement in France. Though a prominent painter, sculptor and printmaker, he is best known for his caricatures of 19th century French political and social life. Daumier satirized government officials and the manners of the bourgeoisie while finding heroes in the working class. He was even imprisoned for six months for portraying King Louis Philippe I and his regime in a negative light. Among his realist works, which highlights the socio-economic distinctions in the newly modernized France, are three paintings which depict the experience of modern rail in first, second and third class carriages. Such is his influence that Daumier is known as the “Michelangelo of caricature”.

Masterpiece: Rue Transnonain, 15 April 1834

Rue Transnonain, 15 April 1834
Rue Transnonain, 15 April 1834 – Honore Daumier

Other Famous Works:-

Gargantua (1831)

Les Gens de Justice (1840s)


Winslow Homer
Winslow Homer

#7 Winslow Homer

Lifespan: February 24, 1836 – September 29, 1910

Nationality: American

Largely self-taught, Winslow Homer worked as a commercial illustrator for around 20 years before he decided to work exclusively as a painter. In the 1870s, he created many paintings depicting rural scenes of young people, children and life in a farm. In 1883, Homer moved to Prouts Neck, Maine, to live close to the ocean. His most famous works are large marine paintings he created there, which often showcase man’s dramatic struggle with nature. Homer’s realism was objective, true to nature and emotionally controlled. His work strongly influenced later American realist painters, such as George Bellows and Edward Hopper. Winslow Homer was one of the most prominent painters in 19th century America and he remains a revered figure in the American art world.

Masterpiece: The Gulf Stream (1899)

The Gulf Stream (1899)
The Gulf Stream (1899) – Winslow Homer

Other Famous Works:-

Snap the Whip (1872)

Eight Bells (1886)


Ilya Repin
Ilya Repin

#6 Ilya Yefimovich Repin

Lifespan: August 5, 1844 – September 29, 1930

Nationality: Russian

Ilya Repin was a member of Peredvizhniki, also known as the Itinerants’ Society, which were a group of Russian realist artists who protested against academic restrictions and were critical of the social environment in Tsarist Russia. Their works are categorized under Social Realism, a genre which draws attention to the everyday conditions of the working class and the poor; and is critical of social structures that lead to these conditions. Repin was constantly in search for new techniques and content to give more depth to his works. He is famous for capturing the peasant life in his works, perhaps better than any other artist in history. Ilya Repin was the most renowned Russian artist of the 19th century, with his position in the art world being comparable to that of Leo Tolstoy in literature.

Masterpiece: Barge Haulers on the Volga (1873)

Barge Haulers on the Volga (1873)
Barge Haulers on the Volga (1873) – Ilya Repin

Other Famous Works:-

Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks (1891)

Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan (1885)


Jean-Francois Millet
Jean-Francois Millet

#5 Jean-François Millet

Lifespan: October 4, 1814 – January 20, 1875

Nationality: French

After Gustave Courbet, Jean-Francois Millet was the most prominent and influential figure of the Realism art movement in France. He is best known for his depiction of peasants in contemporary social conditions. His works emphasized the hardships of the task the peasants had to perform. On first being exhibited, most of his paintings were scorned by art critics and the public alike for depicting rural poverty in a shockingly honest manner. He was able to achieve financial success only by a late stage in his career. Jean-Francois Millet was a pioneer of social realism and he has created some of the most famous realist paintings including The Sower, The Gleaners and The Angelus.

Masterpiece: The Gleaners (1857)

The Gleaners (1857)
The Gleaners (1857) – Jean-Francois Millet

Other Famous Works:-

The Angelus (1859)

The Sower (1850)


Andrew Wyeth
Andrew Wyeth

#4 Andrew Newell Wyeth

Lifespan: July 12, 1917 – January 16, 2009

One of the best-known U.S. artists of the middle 20th century, Andrew Wyeth maintained a realist painting style for over seventy years. His favorite subjects were the land and people around him with his solitary walks being the primary means of inspiration for his landscapes. His precise realistic views of rural life became icons of American culture and challenged the nature of modern art in the nation. His most famous painting, Christina’s World, has been called one of the best-known images in 20th-century American art. 1963, Andrew Wyeth became the first painter to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States.

Masterpiece: Christina’s World (1948)

Christina's World (1948)
Christina’s World (1948) – Andrew Wyeth

Other Famous Works:-

Wind from the Sea (1947)

Master Bedroom (1965)


Rosa Bonheur
Rosa Bonheur

#3 Rosa Bonheur

Lifespan: March 16, 1822 – May 25, 1899

Nationality: French

Born in a rich family, Rosa Bonheur first displayed her art at a salon in Paris at age 19 and she was soon recognized as an important painter. Her popularity in France declined around the center of her life but her works were greatly admired in England and America. Even Queen Victoria had high praise for Bonheur’s masterpiece, The Horse Fair. Bonheur is best known for her painting of animals which she created after extensive scientific study of animal anatomy. She is credit for paving the way for future generation of female artists. In 1865, Rosa Bonheur became the first woman to be awarded with the Grand Cross Legion of Honor, the highest French order for military and civil merits. Bonheur is not only the best known female realist artist but also widely regarded as the most famous female painter of the 19th century.

Masterpiece: The Horse Fair (1855)

The Horse Fair (1853)
The Horse Fair (1855) – Rosa Bonheur

Other Famous Works:-

Ploughing in the Nivernais (1849)

The Lion at Home (1881)


Edward Hopper
Edward Hopper

#2 Edward Hopper

Lifespan: July 22, 1882 – May 15, 1967

Nationality: American

The art of Edward Hopper is marked by minimum of action with almost no sign of life and mobility; and the use of dramatic means to suggest the psychological states of his subjects. Hopper’s individuals, usually depicted isolated and disconnected from their environments, revealed the solitude of modern life. Moreover, he forced his viewer to play an active role in completing the narrative of his artworks. This was hugely influential for the art world as it led to art movements in which the major role in understanding the artwork was left for the viewer. The most famous American realist painter, Edward Hopper has been said to have painted a more revealing portrait of twentieth-century America than any other artist. His masterpiece Nighthawks is one of the most recognizable paintings in the history of American art.

Masterpiece: Nighthawks (1942)

Nighthawks (1942)
Nighthawks (1942) – Edward Hopper

Other Famous Works:-

Automat (1927)

New York Movie (1939)


Gustave Courbet
Gustave Courbet

#1 Gustave Courbet

Lifespan: June 10, 1819 – December 31, 1877

Nationality: French

Gustave Courbet was the undisputed leader of Realism and the key figure responsible for the rise of the movement. He rejected the predominant Romantic and Neoclassical schools prevalent in Europe and instead shocked the art world through bold images which challenged the boundaries of what was acceptable. He depicted non-idealized peasants and workers on a grand scale reserved for religious or historical subjects; undertook subjects which were considered vulgar; addressed social issues in his art; and even painted a close-up view of the genitals and abdomen of a naked woman. Called a genius, a “terrible socialist” and a “savage” during his time, Gustave Courbet is now considered one of the most important artists who not only led a prominent movement but also widely influenced future generation of artists.

Masterpiece: A Burial At Ornans (1850)

A Burial at Ornans (1850)
A Burial at Ornans (1850) – Gustave Courbet

Other Famous Works:-

The Origin of the World (1866)

The Painter’s Studio (1855)


  1. this is so rich, the biography of the artist as short as it is has so much content, clean photos too!…..well done,


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