Although several of these artists took from the techniques of past artists, these realism framed paintings were one of the first truly representational styles that were treated as a style of its own, without the stylization and 'high art' mentality of the time period. Artists like Manet and Courbet spearheaded this revolutionary artistic style with their highly different works.
Gustave Courbet was the first self-styled Realist, whose work didn't have the ornate decisiveness of traditional 'realistic detail' but focused on the accurate depictions in his work to speak for him. His most famous painting, 'The Burial at Ornans' was highly unique in that models weren't used to 'act out' the event. Instead, he drew from his observation of the actual event and depicted the actual people who were gathered to mourn the deceased.
Edouard Manet was an equally important artist when it came to the Realism movement, and also the Impressionist movement that came after. His first Realism work was 'The Luncheon on the Grass', which had a sketchy quality that distinguished his work from Courbet's. However, what made his representational style so popular was his focus on classical composition and using blocks of color in order to develop his paintings. As he grew in skill, he developed 'The Railway' and 'A Bar at the Folies-Bergere' which were deemed Realist masterpieces of the time.
Modern artists have since developed this style to represent nearly every subject imaginable and to embody themes from religious inspiration to historical events.
Social Realism was an American art movement in the United States which became particularly important during the Great Depression in the late 1920's and early 1930's and lasted until the 1960's. Defining what exactly Social Realism is can be difficult however, because of its close relations to the Regionalism and American Scene Painting which were developed around the same time.
Social Realism is vaguely related to the Realism movement that began with Gustave Courbet, because of the realistic depiction of working class and urban poor who was popular in this category. However, unlike the Realists of Europe, most Social Realists had a message of political or social unrest or criticism. Also, many artists like Chris Consani, chose to address the socioeconomic status of the wealthy as decadent and unaware of the trials facing the poor citizens during that time.
Framed Social Realism Art is also closely related to Regionalism due to the emergence of Ashcan School painters, who chose to depict the grittiness of city life. However, the difference between Social Realism and Regionalism lies in the fact that Regionalism was more concerned with the rural community while Social Realism was concerned with the urban areas of America. The Ashcan painters included such famous artists as Robert Henri, George Bellows, and John Slone.
One of the most important things about the Social Realism movement is that it brought artists attention back to American styles of painting. Before the Great Depression, artists typically went overseas to England and France in order to study painting. However, Social Realism and Regionalism changed that, and brought the focus on staying in America and painting purely American subjects with American techniques.
Modern depictions of this art category still contain social or political messages; however, these paintings are typically depictions of common, daily moments in the life of middle to low class citizens, rather than a criticism of the established order. These works include paintings such as Norman Rockwell's 'Tattooist' and works by artists such as Steven Johnson, whose work embraces the stylized depiction of jazz lifestyles.