Art Encyclopedia - Naturalism
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The meaning of the word naturalism is not offered here as a stylistic category but as a meaning in a practical sense. By definition naturalism means aspiring to be like a natural object. In other words, the painting tries to be a pictorial equivalent for what the eye sees existing in everyday nature. Naturalism is concerned with the general appearance of nature. Opposite to stylised or conceptual art.
Bellori (1672) was the first to apply the term naturalism to a particular type of painting in discussing the followers of Caravaggio, with reference to their doctrine of copying nature faithfully whether it seems to us ugly or beautiful. Naturalism, however, is not incompatible with the idealization of nature, for Greek sculpture may be naturalistic in its command of anatomy, but idealistic in that it sets up a standard of physical beauty remote from the everyday world. Nor need the term imply minute attention to detail, although this is often part of a naturalistic approach. The shade of meaning to be attached to the word can thus vary greatly according to context; when used in its broadest sense it may suggest little more than that a work is representational rather than abstract.