Visual Arts Directory
Visual Arts - Review Directory

Naturalism in art is a tendency toward strict adherence to the physical appearance of nature and the rejection of ideal forms. Throughout art history, naturalism has been brought up in just about every movement or school that took place in Holland as well as everywhere else in the world. Naturalism is considered the scientific approach to painting and sculpture.

It can be seen in Holland during the period of classicism before naturalism, when bodily forms in painting and sculpture where more idealized, the ruling class was aristocratic. An important undercurrent of studying the path of naturalism is the politics of the places we are examining. When naturalism became popular and the forms in art became more realistic, the ruling class was made up of peasant like people. The peasants appreciated beautiful colors not beautiful forms; they did not understand the forms. The common people refer everything they see to the visual sense. They can relate more to things painted naturally, because they are used to such things. Naturalism has always been on the opposite side of the political spectrum from the bourgeois.

There were two separate schools in Holland which were known for naturalism in their artwork. The first school was in Utrecht and the second in Amsterdam. In both locations there are many signifier s that lead art historians to believe that naturalism's popularity in Holland came directly from the Italian movement. The Italian movement in question being directly attributed to Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (most commonly referred to as Caravaggio). This Italian painter is responsible for the appearance of chiaroscuro (the contrast between light and dark), which is readily present in the painting and sculpture at this time in Holland.

The painters who follow in the footsteps of Caravaggio are referred to as the Caravaggists. The artists of Holland who are most commonly known for their religious depictions, landscapes and portraits are an example of this. During the seventeenth century the cradle of Dutch art was in Utrecht. This time was known as the Golden Age of Utrecht. The landscapes of this region are directly attributed to Caravaggio due to the use of chiaroscuro and their open compositions.

The term naturalism was actually coined for the description of Caravaggio's radical realism to distinguish it from earlier forms. His paintings were intended for the peasants, depicting religious matter in profoundly contemporary lower class terms. This is the first time this type of religious depiction is seen; traditionally this sacred subject matter was depicted as upper class and more idealistically. Unfortunately in Italy he was ahead of his time and the peasants his work was intended for did not appreciate seeing their religious figures painted like themselves instead of idealized. This was probably one of the things that made his work popular in Holland. He is accredited with laying the groundwork for Rembrandt's' religious depiction's to come. He was able to successfully depict religious figures realistically rather than idealistically.