We explain what naturalism is, what are its principles and differences with realism. In addition, its characteristics and authors.

What is Naturalism?

Naturalism is an artistic and mainly literary movement that emerged in the 19th century as a sort of continuation and deepening of realism, thus opposed to romantic idealism .

This movement was characterized by an artistic vision more attached to reality , objective and above all committed to the portrait of the most disadvantaged social classes , whose problems it sought to explain through a rational, scientific and devoid of moral vision.

Naturalism arose mainly in France and from the pen of the writer and journalist Émile Zola (1840-1902), considered its father and greatest exponent.

Historical Context of Naturalism

Historical context of naturalism

In 19th century Europe , two tendencies clashed: realism, the offspring of the French Enlightenment that postulated human reason and free will as the truths of man; and then Romanticism , a more idealizing and subjectivizing movement, which valued dreams, traditional stories, and mythical heritage as a way to oppose the Enlightenment .

Naturalism was born in this context, strongly influenced by the scientific and sociological works of Comte's positivism , Darwin 's evolutionism , Mendel's genetics , and the historical materialism of Marx and Engels. It is considered a step forward from realism.

Naturalistic Philosophy

Naturalism embraces a philosophical doctrine called determinism , which posits the origins of human problems in their genetics, their social flaws, and their social and material environment, and applies it to literature and art . Thus, his stories generally delve into the lower social strata, to criticize in his tragedies the unjust constitution of society as a whole.

For the naturalists, thus, literature would operate as a political, ideological and social weapon, which is why they often used satire and social denunciation, that is, the most faithful description possible of daily suffering.

Principles of Naturalism

principles of naturalism

The principles of naturalism can be summarized in the following propositions:

  • Human existence is controlled by natural forces beyond the will, which fall on instinct, passion, genetics and the social and economic environment.
  • Literature is a social document, so it should portray society as faithfully as possible.
  • This representation must be done in an amoral way (as opposed to realism), that is, scientific, and above all away from the moral and ethical values of the bourgeoisie .
  • The beautiful and the ugly are not judged as different values, or if they are, naturalism is indifferent to one and the other.
  • They focus their characters on the social strata left aside by the bourgeois novel: the lower classes.
  • They use a language that does not take a dim view of jargon and popular speech.

Differences between Naturalism and Realism

Despite being close relatives, these two artistic schools differ in that naturalism would be an evolution of realism , and therefore a consequence of it.

If realism focused particularly on the bourgeoisie , naturalism does so on the lower classes; something that he does in a pessimistic and atheistic way, contrary to the individualistic optimism of the bourgeoisie. Both movements reject romanticism and accuse it of being evasive and conformist.

Countries in which naturalism was cultivated

Countries in which naturalism was cultivated

Naturalism was born in France, but it soon spread throughout Europe , in countries such as Germany , Italy (it was called “ verismo ”), Great Britain, Russia and Spain. Later it made its appearance in Latin America in countries such as Puerto Rico, Chile , Argentina , Mexico and Venezuela , often linked to indigenism, which focused its interests on the role played by indigenous people in the constitution of these societies.

Naturalism came to the United States much later , and greatly influenced Truman Capote's New Journalism.

Use of naturalistic language

The novels of naturalism did not dislike popular language , using slang, vulgarities and above all stripping their works of all forms of lyricism, considering it a way of poetically distorting the crudeness of the realities they wanted to portray.

Main representatives of naturalism

The main representatives of naturalism were:

  • France . Emile Zola, Gustave Flaubert, Guy de Maupassant, Gustave Flaubert.
  • England . Thomas Hardy, George Bernard Shaw.
  • Germany . Arno Holz, Johannes Schlaf, Carl Hauptmann, and Gernhard Hauptmann.
  • Italy .  Giovanni Verga, Luigi Capuana, Matilde Serao.
  • Portugal.  Eça de Queiroz.
  • Russia.  Chekhoz, Dostoevsky, Maxim Gorky.
  • Spain . Emilia Pardo Bazán, Luis Coloma, José María de Pereda, the Marquis of Figueroa, Enrique Sánchez Seña, Benito Pérez Galdós, among many others.
  • Latin America . Manuel Zeno Gandía (Puerto Rico), Clorinda Matto de Turner (Peru), Augusto D'Halmar (Chile), Eugenio Cambaceres (Argentina), Rómulo Gallegos (Venezuela), among many others.
  • U.S. Theodore Dreiser, Truman Capote.

Reception of naturalism at the time

Reception of naturalism at the time

Many of the novels of naturalism caused a scandal, impacting harshly on the morals of the time , especially due to their choice of low characters, socially ill and cruel material conditions.

In some cases , the movement was confused with pornography , since prostitution plays an important role in its social imaginary. However, that was not the intention of the writers.

Naturalistic Painting

naturalistic painting

In painting , naturalism intensified the characteristics of realism , and was also baptized as Blande noire or les Nubiens , starring authors such as Charles Cottet, Rene Menard, Lucien Simon, André Dauchez, among others.

The above content published at Collaborative Research Group is for informational and educational purposes only and has been developed by referring to reliable sources and recommendations from technology experts. We do not have any contact with official entities nor do we intend to replace the information that they emit.


She has pursued her studies in The United States, where she has graduated in Business and Economics and is currently finishing her Master studies in International Economics and Finance. Miss. Amputee is fluent in three languages: English, Spanish and Russian and has elementary knowledge of French and Italian. She love exploring how Collaborative Research Group can become the best tool to achieve the (necessary) educational change. .

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