Vincent Van Gogh, The Potato Eaters, 1885*
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, At Grenelle, Absinthe Drinker, 1887**
Eduoard Manet, A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, ca. 1882***
French Naturalism (1880-1890) was inspired by certain aspects of Realism. Realists, such as Gustave Courbet, depicted the every-day without embellishing it. The French Naturalists depicted the reality of their world, but unlike Realism, they took more stylistic freedom. This is depicted in Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergère.
French Naturalism also shared similarities with a style of literature used by Èmile Zola, Naturalism. This literary style focused on depicting that human character was shaped by society and by natural conditions. Zola's texts, such as Thérèse Raquin, L'Assommoir , Nana, and Germinal show the most depraved but resilient side of humankind. Paintings such as Van Gogh’s The Potato Eaters and Toulouse-Lautrec’s At Grenelle, Absinthe Drinker depict this side of contemporary life. French Naturalism eventually changed because of the artist’s desire to romanticize aspects of daily life. Artists also extended beyond Realism and French Naturalism. By depicting contemporary life as it was, they produced a style that had a sketch-like quality. This style would evolve to become Impressionism.
* Reprinted, Robert Wallace, The World of Van Gogh 1853-1890, Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1969.
** Reprinted, Thomson, Richard, Phillip Dennis Cate, and Mary Chapin Weaver, Toulouse-Lautrec and Montmartre. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005.
*** Reprinted, Eisenmann, Stephan F., ed, Nineteenth Century Art: A Critical History. London, UK: Thames & Hudson, Ltd, 2002.