While artists working in the Realistic style actively seek to record exactly what their eyes see, Contemporary Realists bring some abstraction into their works. In fact, many painters of Contemporary Realism began their careers as abstract painters, due in part to the predominance of art teachers and professors who are dismissive of representational art as well as the era in which they first began their studies.
As Realism progressed, so too did the style and methods used to create Realistic works; for example the French Barbizon painters worked to record the realistic environment and landscape of the Fontainebleau Forest, but painter Jean-Francois Millet took it a step further by introducing the inhabitants of the landscape into his work and produced "The Gleaners" in 1857. He did not try to capture an exact image of women at work in the fields, only to express a realistic scene.
Later, American painter Edward Hopper would become just as well known for his realistic "Ashcan School" scenes of contemporary urban life. He too did not use Academic or traditional methods and techniques, but realistically conveyed a dark urban realism.
The Contemporary Realist painters come to their work with a full knowledge of modern art and abstract styles, but choose to use traditional imagery to render their subject. Artists considered to be painters of Contemporary Realism include Andrew Wyeth, John Koch, William Bailey, Philip Pearlstein and Neil Welliver among dozens of others.