In the visual arts, for example, realism can be found in ancient Hellenistic Greek sculptures accurately portraying boxers and decrepit old women. The works of such painters as Giotto, artist of the Florentine School, Jan van Eyck, founder of the Flemish School, Caravaggio and Jan Vermeer, Dutch genre painters, Diego Velazquez, artist of the Spanish School and Gustave Courbet, French artist of the Realist School are realist in their approach.

The works of the 18th-century English novelists Daniel Defoe, Henry Fielding, and Tobias Smollett may also be called realistic.
Realism was not consciously adopted as an aesthetic program until the mid-19th century in France. Indeed, realism may be viewed as a major trend in French novels and paintings between 1850 and 1880. One of the first appearances of the term realism was in the Mercure français du XIX siècle in 1826, in which the word is used to describe a doctrine based not upon imitating past artistic achievements but upon the truthful and accurate depiction of the models that nature and contemporary life offer the artist.

The French proponents of realism were agreed in their rejection of the artificiality of both the Classicism and Romanticism of the academies and on the necessity for contemporaneity in an effective work of art. They attempted to portray the lives, appearances, problems, customs, and more of the middle and lower classes, of the unexceptional, the ordinary, the humble, and the unadorned.
Indeed, they conscientiously set themselves to reproducing all the hitherto-ignord aspects of contemporary life and society--its mental attitudes, physical settings, and material conditions.

Realism was stimulated by several intellectual developments in the first half of the 19th century. Among these were the anti-Romantic movement in Germany, with its emphasis on the common man as an artistic subject; Auguste Comte's Positivist philosophy, in which sociology's importance as the scientific study of society was emphasized; the rise of professional journalism, with its accurate and dispassionate recording of current events; and the development of photography, with its capability of mechanically reproducing visual appearances with extreme accuracy.
All these developments stimulated interest in accurately recording contemporary life and society. Late in the 19th and early in the 20th centuries, numerous revolutions took place in the arts, these severed the continuity of the classical school. It is now time and the responsibilities of every serious contemporary neo-realist artists to recreate and be knowledgeable about the laws of classical painting.

Art history often produces labels for art movements and tries to link those to particular eras in history.
This creates the erroneous impression that art is a progressive activity, that the newest and latest is all-important, and that styles and approaches from earlier periods, such as neo-realism, are somehow unfit for the serious contemporary artist.

Nevertheless, many serious and gifted artists who were trained as abstract painters have turned to representation, finding this approach the most satisfying. This perhaps is owe to the simultaneous goals of rendering a close likeness of the thing viewed, yet imbuing it with the artist's sensibility and ideas.

As each artist strives to assimilate formal techniques from the long history of western art, including abstract painting, conceptual art and other modern movements, each creates his or her unique blend. For this reason, quality neo-realist painting is again a vibrant and exciting area of contemporary art.

Suffice to say while the art establishment has paid scant attention and at time completely ignored all efforts of the contemporary neo-realist artist since the postwar era, serious painters have continued to experiment with depicting the world around us painting stunning views, intimate flowers arrangements and scenes of people in their daily life. Indeed, despite the absence of attention and criticism for choosing this style from both museums and the art`media, neo-realism is now having a serious renaissance in Canada and the United States.

Traditionally there are three main subject areas, or genres, of realist painting: still life, figure, and landscape. Within those subject areas, however, painters take dramatically different approaches to both their materials and their subjects and many painters work in more than one genre. Artists may also choose dramatically different approaches to their art materials, a few of which are described below.

Some contemprory realist painters produce highly rendered representations, using small brushstrokes to produce perfectly smooth surface. These paintings may look highly traditional, but the artist chooses this mode for a reason, and it is not to mimic the paintings of yesteryear. No matter how rendered, paintings completed from direct observation are very different from those which are based on photographic detail.

Photo-Realism, an art movement which was highly visible in the 1960's and 70's, relies heavily on photographs in the composition, lighting and execution of a finished painting. In contrast, paintings observed from life, while they also carry detail, involve many more subtle decisions and adjustments on the part of the artist involving scale, composition, format and color.

Why did I chose to become a contemporary realist? After I became aware I had some talents, and visiting numerous museums and galeries, I realized artists who lived and worked in the previous centuries differ very little in their desires to depict the world as it really is. They accomplised this without the help of television, computer and camera. Somehow, they were able to create magnificent masterpeices that are revere and treasured universally. I realized perhaps, I could attempt in my own way to be part of this movement in all its variation, in my own time.