Realism in western art is associated with the traditions of Renaissance art that began in fifteenth-century Italy. The essential artistic goal of artists working in realist styles is to capture reality as seen by the eye, reproducing optical experience.
Despite the radical development of expressionist, abstract, and conceptual styles during the twentieth century, many realist styles have contributed to the history of modern and contemporary art. These styles have been based, in part, upon the traditional observation of the visual world by the artist—as strictly seen by the artist's eye or with personal liberties taken in color and shape. Reflecting modern culture, realist styles have also been derived by artists from the realism of the traditional photograph and commercial visual media. By its nature, photography has been primarily a realist medium.