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In the seventeenth century, the Academie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in Paris defined the word naturalism as "The exact imitation of nature in all things". In spite of this definition, however, the use of the word naturalism in the world of painting and sculpture did not become popular until after 1870 in France. Emile Zola, the French author, started the Naturalism Movement with other writers by praising certain artists such as Alfred Stevens, Alfred Philippe and Edouard Detaille.

Zola apologized for Manet and Cezanne in his work "Nouvelle Campagne", written in 1896. The art critic, Louis Edmond Duranty, wrote in praise of other Naturalist artists such as Jean-Louis Forain, Henri Fantin-Latour and Degas, for whom he had the most respect. Other countries such as Germany, Belgium, Russia, Hungary and Britain all had devotees of the movement. Although writers such as Zola appreciated Impressionism as a movement, their basic premise was that plastic experimentation was not as valuable to the world of art as was social commentary as depicted in the various painters' and artists' works.

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