Journal defines realism as the realistic and natural representation of people, places, and/or things in a work of art (the opposite of idealization). One of the common themes of postmodernism is that this popular notion of an unmediated presentation is not possible. This sense of realism is sometimes considered synonymous with naturalism. And Realism (with an upper case "R"), also known as the Realist school, denotes a mid-nineteenth century art movement and style in which artists discarded the formulas of Neoclassicism and the theatrical drama of Romanticism to paint familiar scenes and events as they actually looked. Typically it involved some sort of sociopolitical or moral message, in the depiction of ugly or commonplace subjects.

The Gleaners, by Jean-Francois Millet, is an excellent example of 19th century Realism. This painting depicts the lowest segment of the population, the peasants, picking up the left over scraps after a harvest. This paining has photo-realistic qualities, such as the strong focus of the main figures, and the faded out effect of the objects on the horizon. This helps to show depth in the image. The colors are very toned down, with low intensity. This painting helps to show us now how these people worked for their food, and how they lived to support themselves.