In this international historical survey the different varieties of realism are explained in their theoretical context and categorised according to established definitions. The book is divided into three chronological sections. The first part, covering the years 1830–1917, describes the origins of the realist style in Europe and North America, the emergence of Naturalism and the origins of socialist art. The second part (1917–1960) explains the different stages of socialist realism in the USSR as well as the directions taken by realism in the West (social realism, magic realism and documentary photography) and in emergent countries (Mexican muralism and other forms of revolutionary art). In the last part (1960–1990) the influence of modernism on realism is discussed (new realism, Pop Art, photorealism, political art in Asia and Latin America, forms of critical realism in the worldwide student movements of the late 1960s).
This is the only extensive manual of its kind to be published in the 21st century describing the varieties of realism in Argentina, Australia, Austria, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russia (USSR), Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, United States of America
The manual includes a dictionary of artistic terms.