Winslow Homer, Artists Sketching in the White Mountains, 1868. Here Homer documented the nineteenth century trend toward artists painting landscapes directly from nature rather than in their studios, «en plein air.»
The expression «Realism», when applied to literature of the 19th century, implies the attempt to depict contemporary life and society. The growth of realism is linked to the development of science (especially biology), history and the social sciences and to the growth of industrialism and commerce. The «realist» tendency is not necessarily anti-romantic; romanticism in France often affirmed the common man and the natural setting, as in the peasant stories of George Sand, and concerned itself with historical forces and periods, as in the work of historian Jules Michelet.
The novels of Stendhal, including The Red and the Black and The Charterhouse of Parma, address issues of their contemporary society while also using themes and characters derived from the romantic movement. Honoré de Balzac is the most prominent representative of 19th century realism in fiction. His La Comédie humaine, a vast collection of nearly 100 novels, was the most ambitious scheme ever devised by a writer of fiction—nothing less than a complete contemporary history of his countrymen. Realism also appears in the works of Alexandre Dumas, fils.