Differences between Realism and Naturalism (comparison chart)

We explain to you what is the difference between realism and naturalism as artistic movements, their similarities and main representatives.

Differences between realism and naturalism
Realism and naturalism sought to show everyday life and social reality.

Realism and naturalism

In the history of art and literature it is known as realism and naturalism to two aesthetic movements born in Europe in the second half of the 19th century, whose main works were pictorial (painting) and literary (novel).

Both openly broke with the aesthetic precepts of romanticism: where the latter idealized and defended the artist’s subjectivities, the first two proposed a model of objective art that would trace as much as possible the social reality of the time.

But despite having this feature in common, inherited from the nascent discourses of the natural and social sciences of the time (positivism, Darwinism and the experimental method), they were two clearly differentiated movements, since naturalism could be described as a exhaustive, supreme degree of realism.

The realism was characterized by being abundant in detail (for example, in literature, huge and punctilious descriptions), as a strategy to imitate real life as much as possible. His mission was to make art with the things of everyday life, using a colloquial and plausible language that replicated that used orally by ordinary people, to address issues of social, political, economic and psychological importance.

For its part, naturalism emerged in 1880 as an extreme form of realism, much closer to the scientific discourses of the moment, which proposed to make works that would document the society of the moment, in the most objective way possible, with all its vulgar and sublime, admirable and sordid features. The characters were represented as slaves no longer of fate, but of their own genetics, following the philosophy of determinism.

We can summarize the differences between realism and naturalism as follows:

Try to create works that reflect the reality of the artist and his historical time.Try to create works that document reality in the most objective way possible.
He abandons the romantic flourish and tries to recreate everyday life in language.It goes even further than realism, using highly detailed and descriptive language that captures reality as objectively as possible.
It is proposed to reproduce the social reality of the time.It not only seeks to trace the social reality of the time, but also to explain it or give reasons for it.
It faithfully narrates the lives of characters of all types and social strata, especially the bourgeois and lower classes.It almost exclusively portrays the lower and marginal classes of society, emphasizing their vulgar or grotesque aspects.
He portrays characters who are victims of his decisions and of society itself.His characters are at the mercy of their physiology and genetics.

Representatives of realism

  • Stendhal (1783-1842), pseudonym of Henry Beyle, a French novelist considered a pioneer of realism with his works Red and black, The Charterhouse of Palma and Life of Henry Brulard.
  • Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850), French novelist and one of the greatest representatives of literary realism, author of books such as Eugenia Grandet, Human comedy, Zapa leather and Papa Goriot.
  • Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880), one of the most famous French novelists of all time, author of the famous Madame Bovary and of In Search of Lost Time.
  • Benito Pérez Galdós (1843-1920), Spanish novelist and playwright who transformed the panorama of the novel in his country, and had great participation in politics. His most notorious works are Fortunata and Jacinta, Doña Perfecta and The madwoman of the house.
  • Charles dickens (1812-1870), English novelist and author of some of the most popular stories in the West, especially for their Oliver twist, Big hopes, A christmas story and Hard times.
  • Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), world-renowned Russian novelist, author of The death of Ivan Ilyich, Sevastopol stories and War and peace.

Representatives of naturalism

  • Emile zola (1840-1902), founding father of naturalism and its main exponent, was a French novelist whose most outstanding works were Thérese Raquin, Nana, The joy of living or The human beast.
  • Vicente Blasco Ibáñez (1867-1928), Spanish writer, journalist and politician, whose work represents both realism and naturalism, and includes, among others, the titles Between orange trees, Reeds and mud, Blood and Sand or The four horsemen of the apocalypse.
  • Guy de Maupassant (1850-1893), French writer whose work consists mostly of short stories, although he also published six novels while alive. His pieces are known Tallow ball, Bel-Ami and Strong as death.
  • Eça de Queiroz (1845-1900), Portuguese writer and diplomat, considered the great author of realism and naturalism in his country. His most outstanding works include The crime of Father Amaro, The tragedy of the Calle de las Flores or Cousin Basilio.
  • Thomas hardy (1840-1928), English novelist, poet and journalist, considered the greatest exponent of naturalism in that country, whose work also made it possible to overcome this movement. His most famous novels are The poor man and the lady, Under the green foliage, Little ironies of life and Far from the madding crowd.