Art Term

Naturalism

Naturalism was a broad movement in the nineteenth century which represented things closer to the way we see them

John Constable, ‘Flatford Mill (‘Scene on a Navigable River’)’ 1816–7
John Constable
Flatford Mill (‘Scene on a Navigable River’) 1816–7
Tate

Until the early nineteenth century both landscape and the human figure in art tended to be idealised or stylised according to conventions derived from the classical tradition. In the nineteenth century there was a trend towards representing things in a more realistic way. In Britain this was pioneered by John Constable who famously said ‘there is room enough for a natural painture’ (type of painting).

Naturalism became one of the major trends of the century and, combined with realism of the subject, led to impressionism and modern art. Naturalism is often associated with plein air practice (painting landscapes and other scenes from life out-of-doors).

Related terms and concepts

Art Term

Rural naturalism

Nineteenth century painting movement characterized by scenes of rural life painted in a realist, often sentimentalised, manner

Art Term

Plein air

The French term plein air means out of doors and refers to the practice of painting entire finished pictures out ...

Art Term

Realism

In its specific sense realism refers to a mid nineteenth century artistic movement characterised by subjects painted from everyday life ...

Selected artworks in the collection