1. action, inclination, or thought based on natural desires and instincts alone 2. a theory that expands conceptions drawn from the naturall sciences into a world view and that denies that anything in reality has a supernatural or more than natural significance: the doctrine that cause-and-effect laws are adequate to account for all phenomena and that teleological conceptions of nature are invalid. 3a. a theory that art or literature should conform exactly to nature or depict every appearance of the subject that comes to the artists attention: a theory in literature emphasizing the role of heredity and environment upon human life and character development 3b. the quality, rendering, or expression of art or literature executed according to this theory: close adherence to nature - compare Realism. 4. a doctrine that religious truth is derived from nature and not from miraculous and supernatural in religion. 5: a view in ethics that distinctions between good and bad and right and wrong can be made on the basis of natural phenomena or that ethical terms and statements can be expressed in terms of or be reduced to non-normative factual terms and statements.


In France after 1870, during the Third Republic, Naturalism continued and expanded the Realism of the Second Empire. "Acquiring a new definition, Naturalism in Painting was now to be the unembellished description of the human condition, taking as its setting places of work or relaxation." The sense of the word since the 17th century was defined by the Academie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture: "The exact imitation of nature in all things." Charles Baudelaire wrote of Ingres as "the most illustrious representative of the naturalist school of drawing." In 1863 the art critic and defender of Realism Jules Castagnary wanted to replace the term Realism with Naturalism. See his writings on the 1863 Salon.2

It was the novelist Emile Zola, and the so called Medan group after their 1880 publication of Les Soires de Medan who developed the contemporary concept. Important in this group were Guy de Maupassant and Joris Karl Huysmans. They supported the Impressionists, and Zola was an apologist of Manet and Cezanne, however in 1896 Zola's "Nouvelle Campagne" in Figaro praised academic painters who were closer to the Naturalist ideal: Alfred Stevens, Philippe Roll, and Detaille. Critics such as Louis Edmond Duranty (La Nouvelle Peinture 1876) and Huysmans (L'Art Moderne 1883) discussed the need, often lacking, to paint common, modern life. Huysmans despised Courbet and was disappointed by Manet (whom Zola later found he did not understand either) and praised Jean-Francois Raffaelli, Gustave Caillebotte, Albert Bartholome, Jean-Louis Forain, Henri Fantin-Latour, and above all Edgar Degas.

In Germany: Adolf von Menzel, Wilhelm Leibl, and Max Liebermann.
In Belgium: Constantin Meunier.
In Russia: Ilya Efimovich Repin.
In Hungary: Mihaly Munkacsy.
In Britain: the Glasgow school including Sir John Lavery, before he became an official portrait painter.



1)    Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged. Merriam-Webster Inc., 1993.
2)    Praeger Encyclopedia of Art Luc-Reinhardt. Praeger Publishers, 1971.