Artworks of realism have been the chief target continuously employed by critics to perpetuate a traditional view of art as mere imitation. In this article, I argue for a way to understand artworks of realism based on a suspension of the classical distinction between mimesis (understood as imitation) and poiesis (understood as making, fabrication or production). By examining the perception model (the case of the trompe-l’œil of fifth-century Greek and Renaissance European paintings) and the poiesis of mechanically reproduced art (the case of the photograph), I argue that (1) contrary to the traditional view, an artwork of realism does not represent what is ordinarily called “reality” by imitating it; (2) in what may seem a representation of the world an artwork of realism actually creates something from scratch, making neither an ontological claim to become and to replace the object in question nor an artistic claim to copy after the object; and (3) despite its apparent achievement of resembling the objects in the world, an artwork of realism should be judged by itself as well as by itself as embodiment of conditions of seeing and of encountering, inhabiting, and interpreting the visible at a certain historical juncture.

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