Having discussed the "death" of Abstract Expressionism, a few words need to be devoted to it's opposite, Realism (with a capital "R"). Today the term is next to meaningless in that it is used as a shorthand expression for everything from photo-realism to the work of Kinkaid and Bob Ross. And while they all owe some degree of decendency from Realism, they are pretty far removed from what the original movement was and what it meant.

Strangely, Courbet considered his work more "realistic" than the academic style because it dealt with "real" life. In fact, stylistically, just the opposite was true. The Academic style was very near to what we would call photo-realism today, denying any surface texture, and concerned only with natural, illusionistic space, light, and appearances. Courbet's painting technique involved rich, creamy applications of thick paint, often with a palette knife, in what was to forshadow stylistically the work of the Impressionists, even though his color choices were quite traditional, utilizing muted browns, greens, and blues. Yet ironically, perhaps because of his advanced age, Courbet was to have nothing to do with the young, upstart Impressionists, and in fact, hated the work of the real precursor of Impressionism, Edouard Manet.