Realism in the arts may be generally defined as the attempt to represent subject matter truthfully without artificiality and avoiding artistic conventions, implausible, exotic and supernatural elements.

In its most specific sense, Realism was an artistic movement that began in France in the 1850s, after the 1848 Revolution. Realists rejected Romanticism, which had dominated French literature and art since the late 18th century. Realism revolted against the exotic subject matter and exaggerated emotionalism and drama of the Romantic movement. Instead it sought to portray real and typical contemporary people and situations with truth and accuracy, and not avoiding unpleasant or sordid aspects of life. Realist works depicted people of all classes in situations that arise in ordinary life, and often reflected the changes wrought by the Industrial and Commercial Revolutions. The popularity of such ‘realistic’ works grew with the introduction of photography — a new visual source that created a desire for people to produce representations which look “objectively real.”

More generally, realist works of art are those that, in revealing a truth, may emphasize the ugly or sordid, such as works of social realism, regionalism, or Kitchen sink realism. The movement even managed to impact on opera, where it is called Verismo, with contemporary working-class heroines such as Carmen, who works in a cigarette factory, and Mimi in La bohème.

Pseudorealism, also spelled pseudo-realism, is a term used in a variety of discourses (often pejoratively) connoting any artistic and dramatic technique, or work of art, film and literature perceived as superficial, not-real or non-realistic The term is often used to describe artistic methods deviating from what’s commonly referred to as an accurate representation of reality. By definition, the term is highly subjective. For example, Bangalore-born artist Devajyoti Ray would like to see it as a separate art-form in conjunction with his own figurative paintings created more freely in the context of Indian art. Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the spectrum, the term is used to describe photorealistic CGI animation and 3D computer graphics indistinguishable from cine-photography. Yet, other sources might equate pseudorealism with Magic realism, popular in film, literature, and visual arts, or even the cynical pseudo-realism of the Stalinist era as exposed by Orwell.

The term has also often been used to describe a certain type of film productions, TV programmes, and video games, where special effects, computer generated imagery and 3D animation are used to augment reality based images. In this context the word pseudoreal has a negative connotation.

According to some, the term pseudorealism in reference to art, has a parallel in mathematical field of representation theory or the idea that something unreal can still give the impression of the real. There, a (pseudo real) Quaternionic representation is a group representation that is equivalent to its complex conjugate, but that is not a real representation.

Realism examples:

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