Realism: Definition, Examples, Key Principles
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 4 min read


  1. What is Realism?
  2. Examples of Realism
  3. Key Principles of Realism

Welcome to the world of Realism — a fascinating domain that manages to be both simple and complex at the same time. This blog will guide you through the definition of realism, provide examples for better understanding, and discuss key principles that define this concept.

What is Realism?

Realism, in the simplest terms, is all about representing people, situations, or things as they are — close to life, without any sugar-coating. It encourages us to accept situations as they are and be prepared to handle them. It's like seeing the world through clear glasses, not rose-tinted ones. But let's break it down a bit more.

The Basic Definition of Realism

Realism is straightforward: it's about keeping it real. It's an attitude where you face situations as they are, not how you wish they were. It's not pessimistic, but it's not overly optimistic either. It's just real. Here's how you can understand it:

  • Acceptance: Realism is about accepting situations as they are. It's not about dreaming of what could be, but understanding what is.
  • Preparation: Being realistic also means being ready to deal with situations. If it's raining, you bring an umbrella, right? That's realism.

Realism in Representation

Another aspect of the definition of realism is how it applies to representation. This is particularly true in areas like art, literature, and even day-to-day life. When you're being realistic, you represent things as they are, not as you'd like them to be. Here are a few ways to think about it:

  • Accuracy: Realism is about accuracy. If you're painting a picture of a tree, you paint it as it is, not as you imagine it could be.
  • Truthfulness: Being true to life is a big part of realism. It's about being honest and true in your representation, whether that's in a story you're telling, a picture you're drawing, or a situation you're describing.

So, to sum it up: the definition of realism is about acceptance, preparation, accuracy, and truthfulness. It's about keeping it real, in every sense of the word. Now, let's look at some examples of realism to make this even clearer.

Examples of Realism

Now that we have a clearer understanding of the definition of realism, let's dive into some real-world examples. These examples will help you grasp the concept of realism more fully and see it in action. Ready? Let's get started.

Realism in Literature

Realism has played a significant role in literature. Many authors use realism to present authentic depictions of life and society. The characters, events, and settings in these books mirror the real world. They don't take us to a magical land but instead portray the world as it is. Here are a few examples:

  1. "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" by Mark Twain: This book depicts the life of a young boy in a small town. Every detail reflects the ordinary life of that era, making it a great example of realism.
  2. "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee: This novel paints a realistic picture of racial tension in a small, southern town, reflecting the societal issues of the time.

Realism in Art

Just as in literature, realism in art involves capturing the world as it exists, without exaggeration or distortion. Realist artists focus on capturing everyday scenes and people in their works. Here are a couple of examples:

  1. Gustave Courbet: Known as the leader of the Realist movement in 19th-century French painting, Courbet is famous for his works such as "The Stone Breakers," which depicts two laborers in a stark rural setting.
  2. Edward Hopper: A prominent American realist painter, Hopper is known for his oil paintings of contemporary American life. His most famous work, "Nighthawks," presents a snapshot of life in a city diner late at night.

Reality is complex, filled with a mixture of joy, sorrow, struggle, and peace. Realism, whether in literature or art, aims to capture this complexity, presenting a true-to-life portrayal of the world around us.

Key Principles of Realism

Let's continue our exploration of the definition of realism by looking at the key principles that guide this concept. These principles are the basic building blocks that help us understand why and how realism manifests in different areas like literature, art, and philosophy.

Objective Reality

At the heart of realism is the belief in an objective reality. Realists argue that there is a world that exists independently of our perceptions or beliefs. This principle is why realists strive to depict the world as it truly is, without any personal bias or subjective interpretation. It's like being a fly on the wall, observing the world without altering or influencing it.

Practical Understanding

The second key principle of realism is the focus on practical understanding. Realists believe that knowledge should be practical and based on experience, rather than theoretical or abstract. This principle leads to a focus on observable phenomena and concrete facts, rather than abstract ideas. Think of it as preferring to learn how to bake a cake by actually baking it rather than just reading a recipe.

Depiction of Everyday Life

The final principle we'll discuss is the depiction of everyday life. Realism is all about capturing the ordinary moments and experiences that make up our lives. In literature, this might mean focusing on the daily routines of a character. In art, it could be painting a scene from a bustling city street or a quiet rural landscape.

By understanding these principles, you can see how the definition of realism extends beyond just "depicting reality." It's a comprehensive approach that shapes how we view and interpret the world around us.

If you're intrigued by the concept of realism and want to dive deeper into this art form, check out the 'Follow Along: Realism Paint Workshop' by David Shepherd. This workshop will guide you through the process of creating a realistic painting, allowing you to put the principles of realism into practice and hone your skills as an artist.