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Difference and Similarities between Realism and Naturalism - Realism vs Naturalism (and in realistic and naturalist art)

Difference between Realism and Naturalism

First of all, it has to be noted that realism and naturalism are quite alike, but still different. Sometimes it can be quite challenging to find out if a text or a picture is from the realism or naturalism moevement if one does not know anything about it.

Realism happened before naturalism and has two forms: the poetic and the civil realism.

Realistic Art


The two forms of Realism

In the civil realism, it is a narrative literature and it is always about society and the normal life of people. The people do not long anymore for higher values as it is in classicism and romanticism. They should function in the society and be like a wheel in a big machine. Literary realistic stories are objective in the case of the civil realism. This does not mean pure objectiveness. The stories are told in an artistically manner.

The poetic realism is about the same aspects and themes as the civil realism. But as the name already suggests it is more poetic. Stories and books are loaded with symbols often and idealised and in many epistolary novels morals are taught and told.

Naturalistic Art


Naturalism (an exaggerated form of realism)

Naturalism evolved out of civil realism and one could say it is simply an exaggerated form of realism (civil). Philosophical or higher values are non-sense in the eyes of naturalists, because naturalism is purely materialistic. It seeks pure objectiveness (which is impossible to get completely), and no deeper sense or moral, philosophical values are of no importance. The language is the dialect. The protagonists are often wealthier people like doctors, lawyers etc.

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The Difference

Naturalism turns down all aspects of the poetic realism. Neither philosophy nor higher values are important. Protagonists are often of the wealthier class in naturalism. In realism, it is about the middle-class. Naturalism is purely objective, realism is “normally” objective (the objectiveness is presented in an poetically or skilfully written way).

 ObjectivenessProtagonistsMoral / Philosophy


Yes, but poetically written




Yes, absolute objectiveness

Wealthy class


Further Reading


Tolovaj on January 10, 2015:

Thanks for good explanation. I think everybody who wants to understand the differences should read few books from both sides and get the feel which is which and where is the gray area between both. Realism and naturalism both served their purposes and to certain degree they still do.

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