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Style and Civilization: Realism (Style & Civilization) [Paperback]

Linda Nochlin
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

31 Jan 1991 Style & Civilization
Setting Realism in its social and historical context, the author discusses the crucial paradox posed by Realist works of art - notably in the revolutionary paintings of Courbet, the works of Manet, Degas and Monet, of the Pre-Raphaelites and other English, American, German and Italian Realists.

Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (31 Jan 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140132228
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140132229
  • Product Dimensions: 19.7 x 12.9 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 221,028 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Linda Nochlin is a professor of art history at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars I'm not a professor, but... 8 Jun 2010
This book was recommended to me by tutors of an Open University course on Modern Art, somehow I never got round to reading it all those years ago. This was a mistake! Though Art History as a discipline has moved on since this book was published (1971) Nochlin still offers a clear, relevant viewpoint to contrast with, say, Clement Greenberg's or TJ Clarke's commentaries on modern art ('Modern' in this context does not mean 'contemporary'). A good undergraduate book- which is why it was recommended to me, but also an enlightening and easy read for those who studied Art History years ago, (or are studying nineteenth century history now!). The concluding chapter refers to architecture, and belies the author's American origins- not that there is anything wrong with Americans! but up to that point it is only the spelling that gives her away. And it's not expensive!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb introduction to a predominant 19th century art trend 27 Jan 2004
By Robert Moore - Published on
Realism was a major movement of mid- to late-19th century art, literature, and architecture, and has left a lasting impact on the culture of the 20th and 21st centuries. Before realism, most painting dealt with either historical or allegorical subjects, but afterwards, almost all art has primarily been concerned with contemporary subjects, and allegory is close to unheard of. As Nochlin shows, Realism is not merely a mimetic recreation of what one sees or photo-realism. The Dutch masters and especially Vermeer had produced paintings of great verisimilitude to real life, but they have little in common with 19th century Realism because of the overall social context.
Realism has the unusual distinction of both being a school and not being one. Although many painters could be said to be realists, there is not an easily identifiable school of realist painters like with the Impressionists, who were, in fact, some of the leading exponents of realist principles. There were self-consciously realist writers, like Zola, but as a group they did not actually attach themselves to the label as long as one might suppose.
Nochlin does a great job of explaining precisely what was unique about realism by examining the way that several painters--in particular Courbet, Manet, Monet, Degas, Renoir, and a few other key figures--expressed realist values in their paintings. Her strategy is to do this by discussing realism in the context of several themes. First, she surveys the ways in which realist painters dealt with death. This primarily consisted in the demystification of death, stripping it of the metaphysical, mythological, moralistic, and religious trappings with which it had traditionally been treated. Second, she deals with the question of contemporaneity, which in many ways has been the most influential aspect of realism. As mentioned above, after realism historical painting became increasingly suspect. Finally, she discusses what she terms "The Heroism of Everyday Life." This is the celebration and elevation of everyday activities and people as acceptable and laudable subjects of paintings. The book ends with a Epilogue that takes up the question of realism in architecture, and what this could mean in the context of the 19th century.
Some understanding of realism is essential for understanding both 19th century art, and the development of post-impressionist and abstract art (since these had very different understandings of what was "real"). Like everything that Linda Nochlin writes, this is of the utmost interest not merely to students of art, but to anyone interested in the aesthetic values that went into the making of modernism. I would very much like to see a new edition of this book come out, hopefully with updated illustrations and graphics. It is hard to imagine a stronger introductory treatment of 19th century Realism than this excellent volume.
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic 4 Mar 2013
By Helmut Walser Smith - Published on
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This is a brilliant book: beautifully written, brimming with erudition, and full of insight. It is mainly about French art in the era of Courbet and the early impressionists. But it draws on a wider range of literature, art in other places, philosophy, and social, economic and political history. A great read.
9 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Clear Guide to the Complexities of Realism 11 Nov 2000
By A Customer - Published on
In this 283 page book Linda Nochlin examines the artistc genre of realism under a microscope. Every point that she raises is cleary supported in great detail. The chapter "The Heroism of Modern Life" outlines a very intersting thesis regarding the changes in subjects chosen by artists in the 19th century. It is fascinateing becuase Nochlin uses support from both the Art world, and the litterary world of realism. This is a must own book for your Art reference library.
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