A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
Photography may be a more effective and reasonably inexpensive alternative to drawing or painting, but more thought and feeling goes into a painting than a photograph.
Photography is relatively simple in comparison to painting, which is a much more complex task. With photography, the composition is already completely arranged, but with a painting the objective is much more open to interpretation by the artist. The artist has the ability to capture much more emotion, understanding, and significance in an event and apply this fiery drive to his paintbrush when creating his own masterpiece.
When dealing with reality, I think a photograph may represent an actual physical recollection of a person or object, but a painting created from scratch adds the reality of perception to the equation. Reality is always open to a different observation and interpretation.
Artists during the Realism period concentrated on the real world as they saw it, and chose to construct their pieces of work with normal, everyday activities, therefore making it all the more real. One painter during this time period was Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot. In his piece titled Ville d’Avray, he chooses to capture a woman in a forest-like setting. The text states Corot worked very quickly so that he could capture the “underlying rhythm of nature” to make his landscapes reveal the magic moment of truth. In my interpretation, his quick brushstrokes in light and dark values are meant to create movement; you can practically see the wind blowing through the rustling trees, gently swaying the woman’s long, flowing skirt. With his choice of colors, I can feel a slight chill from the breeze due to the haziness and dimly lit sky. If this were a photograph, the image would be less blurred, and I would see a woman, a couple of trees, and more defined colors. I wouldn’t feel anything from the photograph. I would just see objects. With this painting however, I interpret it to make me feel a certain way (serene and lethargic), and it provokes me to ponder as to why this woman is amongst the trees on such a blustery day. This painting allows me to reflect and speculate upon whether the artist had similar feelings while creating such a magnificent composition.
Another thought-provoking painting created during the Realism period is Gustave Courbet’s Burial at Ornans. Courbet was viewed as the leader of Realism in art, and he said “to paint a bit of country, one must know it.” This may be the foundation of realism, because the artists chose simple, everyday events (such as Courbet chose a burial in this particular painting), and made them into complex narratives. In Burial at Ornans, Courbet makes me feel mournful from the dark composition, as it unfortunately reminds me of a funeral I recently attended. When I read that Courbet demanded the subjects in his picture of numerous sittings, I can only imagine what they had to think about to achieve such sorrowful dispositions. It is especially heart-wrenching when the viewer painstakingly examines all of the detailed faces, especially that of the altar boys. One innocent child is looking up towards an elder man, probably questioning “Why?” This simple action may be symbolic of so many of us looking up towards Heaven and asking God “Why?” when we lose a loved one. This painting is a true example of realism, and it was probably primarily rejected because people of that time period wanted optimistic pieces of art; not work that made them pessimistically question real life events.