Realism in art was an attempt to describe human behavior and surroundings or to represent figures and objects exactly as they act or appear in life. North American realism in the United States diverges in style from the romanticism of the Hudson River School. American realist paintings include honest, matter-of-fact portraits.
At the beginning of the 20th century, a group of American artists known collectively as the Ashcan school, or The Eight, attempted to paint the American urban scene as it really was.
In the 1910's, a number of artists based in Canada reacted strongly against the ubiquitous espousal of outmoded European art ideals. Instead, they promoted painting that was distinctively Canadian in spirit. As their primary subject, they chose the raw, sparsely inhabited wilderness of northern Ontario.
Tom Thomson was an inspiration to the others. When he died In 1920, the remaining artists formed the famous Group of Seven. Original members included Lawren Harris, Alexander Young Jackson, J. E. H. MacDonald, Arthur Lismer, Frederick Horsman Varley, Frank Carmichael, and Frank Johnston. Together with like-minded artists, the group exhibited annually from 1920 to 1931.