Realism in the visual arts is a style that depicts the actuality of what the eyes can see. Realism in the illusionistic sense appears in art as early as 2400 BC in the city of Lothal in what is now India, and examples can be found throughout the history of art, Ancient Egyptian art had rigid and artificial conventions for the depiction of the human figure, but minor figures and animals are often very well-observed, and lifelike. In the broadest sense, realism in a work of art exists wherever something has been well observed and accurately depicted, even if the work as a whole does not strictly conform to the conditions of realism.
Anthologia Palatina 6.256 = Antipater of
Thessalonica (Julio-Claudian period)
The neck, thick as a bull’s,
And iron shoulders, like Atlas’;
The flowing hair and august
Beard, like Heracles’;
The eyes, fierce as a lion’s,
Of that Milesian giant –
Not even Olympian Zeus
Looked on them without trembling,
When Nicophon beat all comers
In boxing at the Olympics.