Cambridge Encyclopedia » Cambridge Encyclopedia Vol. 53

Naturalism

art zola

A term used in art criticism for the faithful copying of nature, with no attempt to ‘improve’ or idealize the subject; used in this sense in 1672 by Giovanni Pietro Bellori (1615–96) to characterize the work of Caravaggio and his followers. It later became used to describe the incorporation of scientific method into art, especially literature. This was advocated by the French novelist Emile Zola in the late 19th-c, at a time when confidence in science ran high. Zola claimed the writer should be a dispassionate observer of phenomena, his imagination a laboratory. The Naturalist movement provided a philosophical framework for the earlier Realist initiative, but was soon undermined by Symbolist ideas. Naturalism had an after-life in England (with Bennett), in the USA (with Dreiser), and in Germany (with Hauptmann).

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