Question: Critically examine André Bazin's assertion that photography and the cinema [.] are discoveries that satisfy, once and for all and in its very essence, our obsession with realism' (1972:12). Illustrate your answer with examples.
Realism has been the holy grail' of artists and artisans since the dawn of thought. Our obsession with Realism drives us to create that which mimics the things we see around us. Striving to be closer to God we try to emulate that which we perceive to be most like His creations. As time has gone on sculptures and paintings have become more and more physically accurate, however we are also struggling to balance that which is spiritual with the world we perceive around us. This leaves us with the question what is realism, the spiritual, aesthetic or our true psychologically perceived world?' Here I hope to look briefly at the plastic arts' but focus mainly on photography and cinema to see if they can satisfy the battle between these elements and our desire to create realism through the arts.
In the early days of what Bazin calls the plastic arts', painting was used to capture a real' image on canvas for all eternity, although the painting is, as Goddard calls it, an image of reality', it is created by man and so can be manipulated and is an artists interpretation of the reality. In the 18th and 19th century, the impressionist painters such as Van Gogh and Monet and cubists such as Picasso, were creating paintings that were not a realistic impression of an image, but a spiritual and emotional impression'. Picasso's paintings rarely looked much like the aesthetic reality at all but were a representation of reality through art. Bazin looks at early capturing of image on canvas or film as being linked to the mummy complex', an attempt to preserve likeness forever, although a painting could only achieve this on a basic level it still saves the subject from what Bazin calls a second spiritual death'.