Realism Société libre des Beaux-Arts

Realism was the main art and literature movement in the second half of the 19th century, emerging at a time of profound political and social change. Following in the footsteps of the French painter Gustave Courbet, as well as those of Belgians such as Charles De Groux and Alfred Stevens, a large number of artists united in the Société libre des Beaux-Arts, which was established in Brussels in 1868. Their endeavours were characterised by a powerful passion for freedom, candour, and realism. This led them to turn their backs on an academicism that was constrained by rules and on history painting that was only interested in an idealised version of the past. Instead of those conventional and in their opinion outmoded approaches, they put the emphasis on their own contemporary surroundings and on nature. Meticulous observation of their subjects was seen as essential to this outlook focused on the “real” world.