Gustave Courbet

Last updated
Gustave Courbet
Gustave Courbet, photograph Atelier Nadar, c. 1860s.jpg
Gustave Courbet, c.1860s
(portrait photograph by Nadar)
Born
Jean Désiré Gustave Courbet

(1819-06-10)10 June 1819
Ornans, Doubs, France
Died31 December 1877(1877-12-31) (aged 58)
La Tour-de-Peilz, Switzerland
Education Académie Suisse
Known for Painting, sculpting
Notable work The Stone Breakers (1849)
A Burial At Ornans (1849–1850)
The Painter's Studio (1855)
L'Origine du monde (1866)
Movement Realism
AwardsGold-Medal winner, 1848 Salon
Nominated to receive the French Legion of Honor in 1870 (refused)
Patron(s) Alfred Bruyas

Jean Désiré Gustave Courbet ( UK: /ˈkʊərb/ KOOR-bay, [1] US: /kʊərˈb/ koor-BAY, [2] French:  [ɡystav kuʁbɛ] ; 10 June 1819 31 December 1877) [3] was a French painter who led the Realism movement in 19th-century French painting. Committed to painting only what he could see, he rejected academic convention and the Romanticism of the previous generation of visual artists. His independence set an example that was important to later artists, such as the Impressionists and the Cubists. Courbet occupies an important place in 19th-century French painting as an innovator and as an artist willing to make bold social statements through his work.

Contents

Courbet's paintings of the late 1840s and early 1850s brought him his first recognition. They challenged convention by depicting unidealized peasants and workers, often on a grand scale traditionally reserved for paintings of religious or historical subjects. Courbet's subsequent paintings were mostly of a less overtly political character: landscapes, seascapes, hunting scenes, nudes, and still lifes. Courbet, a socialist, was active in the political developments of France. He was imprisoned for six months in 1871 for his involvement with the Paris Commune and lived in exile in Switzerland from 1873 until his death four years later.

Biography

Self-Portrait (Man with Leather Belt), c. 1845-1877 Gustave Courbet - Self-Portrait (Man with Leather Belt) - WGA05486.jpg
Self-Portrait (Man with Leather Belt), c.1845–1877

Gustave Courbet was born in 1819 to Régis and Sylvie Oudot Courbet in Ornans (department of Doubs). Anti-monarchical feelings prevailed in the household. (His maternal grandfather fought in the French Revolution.) Courbet's sisters, Zoé, Zélie, and Juliette were his first models for drawing and painting. After moving to Paris he often returned home to Ornans to hunt, fish, and find inspiration. [4]

Courbet went to Paris in 1839 and worked at the studio of Steuben and Hesse. An independent spirit, he soon left, preferring to develop his own style by studying the paintings of Spanish, Flemish and French masters in the Louvre, and painting copies of their work. [5]

L'homme a la pipe (Self-portrait, Man with a pipe), 1848-49, Musee Fabre, Montpellier Courbet Autoportrait.jpg
L'homme à la pipe (Self-portrait, Man with a pipe), 1848–49, Musée Fabre, Montpellier

Courbet's first works were an Odalisque inspired by the writing of Victor Hugo and a Lélia illustrating George Sand, but he soon abandoned literary influences, choosing instead to base his paintings on observed reality. Among his paintings of the early 1840s are several self-portraits, Romantic in conception, in which the artist portrayed himself in various roles. These include Self-Portrait with Black Dog (c. 1842–44, accepted for exhibition at the 1844 Paris Salon), the theatrical Self-Portrait which is also known as Desperate Man (c. 1843–45), Lovers in the Countryside (1844, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon), The Sculptor (1845), The Wounded Man (1844–54, Musée d'Orsay, Paris), The Cellist, Self-Portrait (1847, Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, shown at the 1848 Salon), and Man with a Pipe (1848–49, Musée Fabre, Montpellier). [6]

Trips to the Netherlands and Belgium in 1846–47 strengthened Courbet's belief that painters should portray the life around them, as Rembrandt, Hals and other Dutch masters had. By 1848, he had gained supporters among the younger critics, the Neo-romantics and Realists, notably Champfleury. [7]

Courbet achieved his first Salon success in 1849 with his painting After Dinner at Ornans . The work, reminiscent of Chardin and Le Nain, earned Courbet a gold medal and was purchased by the state. [8] The gold medal meant that his works would no longer require jury approval for exhibition at the Salon [9] —an exemption Courbet enjoyed until 1857 (when the rule changed). [10]

In 1849–50, Courbet painted The Stone Breakers (destroyed in the Allied Bombing of Dresden in 1945), which Proudhon admired as an icon of peasant life; it has been called "the first of his great works". [11] The painting was inspired by a scene Courbet witnessed on the roadside. He later explained to Champfleury and the writer Francis Wey: "It is not often that one encounters so complete an expression of poverty and so, right then and there I got the idea for a painting. I told them to come to my studio the next morning." [11]

Realism

The Wave (La Vague), 1869, oil on canvas, 66 cm x 90 cm (26 in x 35 in), Musee des beaux-arts de Lyon Gustave Courbet - La vague - Google Art Project.jpg
The Wave (La Vague) , 1869, oil on canvas, 66 cm × 90 cm (26 in × 35 in), Musée des beaux-arts de Lyon

Courbet's work belonged neither to the predominant Romantic nor Neoclassical schools. History painting, which the Paris Salon esteemed as a painter's highest calling, did not interest him, for he believed that "the artists of one century [are] basically incapable of reproducing the aspect of a past or future century ..." [12] Instead, he maintained that the only possible source for living art is the artist's own experience. [12] He and Jean-François Millet would find inspiration painting the life of peasants and workers. [13]

Courbet painted figurative compositions, landscapes, seascapes, and still lifes. He courted controversy by addressing social issues in his work, and by painting subjects that were considered vulgar, such as the rural bourgeoisie, peasants, and working conditions of the poor. His work, along with that of Honoré Daumier and Jean-François Millet, became known as Realism . For Courbet realism dealt not with the perfection of line and form, but entailed spontaneous and rough handling of paint, suggesting direct observation by the artist while portraying the irregularities in nature. He depicted the harshness of life, and in doing so challenged contemporary academic ideas of art. One of the distinctive features of Courbet's Realism was his lifelong attachment to his native province, the Franche-Comté, and of his birthplace, Ornans.

The Stone Breakers

Gustave Courbet, The Stone Breakers 1849, oil on canvas, first exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1850, destroyed during World War II. Gustave Courbet - The Stonebreakers - WGA05457.jpg
Gustave Courbet, The Stone Breakers 1849, oil on canvas, first exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1850, destroyed during World War II.

Considered to be the first of Courbet's great works, The Stone Breakers of 1849 is an example of social realism that caused a sensation when it was first exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1850. The work was based on two men, one young and one old, whom Courbet discovered engaged in backbreaking labor on the side of the road when he returned to Ornans for an eight-month visit in October 1848. On his inspiration, Courbet told his friends and art critics Francis Wey and Jules Champfleury, "It is not often that one encounters so complete an expression of poverty and so, right then and there I got the idea for a painting."

While other artists had depicted the plight of the rural poor, Courbet's peasants are not idealized like those in works such as Millet's The Gleaners.

In February 1945, the work was destroyed during World War II, along with 154 other pictures, when a transport vehicle moving the pictures to the castle of Königstein, near Dresden, was bombed by Allied forces.

A Burial at Ornans

Gustave Courbet, A Burial At Ornans, 1849-50, oil on canvas, 314 cm x 663 cm (124 in x 261 in), Musee d'Orsay, Paris. Exhibition at the 1850-1851 Paris Salon created an "explosive reaction" and brought Courbet instant fame. Gustave Courbet - A Burial at Ornans - Google Art Project 2.jpg
Gustave Courbet, A Burial At Ornans , 1849–50, oil on canvas, 314 cm × 663 cm (124 in × 261 in), Musée d'Orsay, Paris. Exhibition at the 1850–1851 Paris Salon created an "explosive reaction" and brought Courbet instant fame.

The Salon of 1850–1851 [lower-alpha 1] found him triumphant with The Stone Breakers, the Peasants of Flagey and A Burial at Ornans. The Burial, one of Courbet's most important works, records the funeral of his grand uncle [16] which he attended in September 1848. People who attended the funeral were the models for the painting. Previously, models had been used as actors in historical narratives, but in Burial Courbet said he "painted the very people who had been present at the interment, all the townspeople". The result is a realistic presentation of them and life in Ornans.

The vast painting, measuring 10 by 22 feet (3.0 by 6.7 meters), drew both praise and fierce denunciations from critics and the public, in part because it upset convention by depicting a prosaic ritual on a scale which would previously have been reserved for a religious or royal subject.

According to art historian Sarah Faunce, "In Paris, the Burial was judged as a work that had thrust itself into the grand tradition of history painting, like an upstart in dirty boots crashing a genteel party, and in terms of that tradition it was, of course, found wanting." [17] The painting lacks the sentimental rhetoric that was expected in a genre work: Courbet's mourners make no theatrical gestures of grief, and their faces seemed more caricatured than ennobled. The critics accused Courbet of a deliberate pursuit of ugliness. [17]

Eventually, the public grew more interested in the new Realist approach, and the lavish, decadent fantasy of Romanticism lost popularity. Courbet well understood the importance of the painting, and said of it, "Burial at Ornans was in reality the burial of romanticism." [18]

Courbet, about 1850 Gustave Courbet daguerreotype Nadar.jpg
Courbet, about 1850

Courbet became a celebrity and was spoken of as a genius, a "terrible socialist" and a "savage". [19] He actively encouraged the public's perception of him as an unschooled peasant, while his ambition, his bold pronouncements to journalists, and his insistence on depicting his own life in his art gave him a reputation for unbridled vanity. [20]

Courbet associated his ideas of realism in art with political anarchism, and, having gained an audience, he promoted democratic and socialist ideas by writing politically motivated essays and dissertations. His familiar visage was the object of frequent caricature in the popular French press. [21]

In 1850, Courbet wrote to a friend:

...in our so very civilized society it is necessary for me to live the life of a savage. I must be free even of governments. The people have my sympathies, I must address myself to them directly. [22]

During the 1850s, Courbet painted numerous figurative works using common folk and friends as his subjects, such as Village Damsels (1852), The Wrestlers (1853), The Bathers (1853), The Sleeping Spinner (1853), and The Wheat Sifters (1854).

The Artist's Studio

The Artist's Studio (L'Atelier du peintre): A Real Allegory of a Seven Year Phase in my Artistic and Moral Life, 1855, 359 cm x 598 cm (141 in x 235 in), oil on canvas, Musee d'Orsay, Paris Courbet LAtelier du peintre.jpg
The Artist's Studio (L'Atelier du peintre): A Real Allegory of a Seven Year Phase in my Artistic and Moral Life , 1855, 359 cm × 598 cm (141 in × 235 in), oil on canvas, Musée d'Orsay, Paris

In 1855, Courbet submitted fourteen paintings for exhibition at the Exposition Universelle . Three were rejected for lack of space, including A Burial at Ornans and his other monumental canvas The Artist's Studio . [23] Refusing to be denied, Courbet took matters into his own hands. He displayed forty of his paintings, including The Artist's Studio, in his gallery called The Pavilion of Realism (Pavillon du Réalisme) which was a temporary structure that he erected next door to the official Salon-like Exposition Universelle. [23]

The work is an allegory of Courbet's life as a painter, seen as a heroic venture, in which he is flanked by friends and admirers on the right, and challenges and opposition to the left. Friends on the right include the art critics Champfleury, and Charles Baudelaire, and art collector Alfred Bruyas. On the left are figures (priest, prostitute, grave digger, merchant, and others) who represent what Courbet described in a letter to Champfleury as "the other world of trivial life, the people, misery, poverty, wealth, the exploited and the exploiters, the people who live off death." [24]

In the foreground of the left-hand side is a man with dogs, who was not mentioned in Courbet's letter to Champfleury. X-rays show he was painted later, but his role in the painting is important: he is an allegory of the then-current French Emperor, Napoleon III, identified by his famous hunting dogs and iconic twirled mustache. By placing him on the left, Courbet publicly shows his disdain for the emperor and depicts him as a criminal, suggesting that his "ownership" of France is an illegal one. [25]

Although artists like Eugène Delacroix were ardent champions of his effort, the public went to the show mostly out of curiosity and to deride him. Attendance and sales were disappointing, [26] but Courbet's status as a hero to the French avant-garde became assured. He was admired by the American James Abbott McNeill Whistler, and he became an inspiration to the younger generation of French artists including Édouard Manet and the Impressionist painters. The Artist's Studio was recognized as a masterpiece by Delacroix, Baudelaire, and Champfleury, if not by the public.

Realist manifesto

Courbet wrote a Realist manifesto for the introduction to the catalogue of this independent, personal exhibition, echoing the tone of the period's political manifestos. In it, he asserts his goal as an artist is "to translate the customs, the ideas, the appearance of my epoch according to my own estimation." [27]

The title of Realist was thrust upon me just as the title of Romantic was imposed upon the men of 1830. Titles have never given a true idea of things: if it were otherwise, the works would be unnecessary.

Without expanding on the greater or lesser accuracy of a name that nobody, I should hope, can really be expected to understand, I will limit myself to a few words of elucidation in order to cut short the misunderstandings.

I have studied the art of the ancients and the art of the moderns, avoiding any preconceived system and without prejudice. I no longer wanted to imitate the one than to copy the other; nor, furthermore, was it my intention to attain the trivial goal of "art for art's sake". No! I simply wanted to draw forth, from a complete acquaintance with tradition, the reasoned and independent consciousness of my own individuality.

To know in order to do, that was my idea. To be in a position to translate the customs, the ideas, the appearance of my time, according to my own estimation; to be not only a painter but a man as well; in short, to create living art – this is my goal. (Gustave Courbet, 1855) [28]

Notoriety

"Maitre Courbet Inaugurant l'atelier des peintres modernes, caricature by Emile Benassit from Le Boulevard, issue 1, 1861 Louis Emile Benassit--Courbet caricature--from Le Boulevard issue 1-- 1861.jpg
"Maitre Courbet Inaugurant l'atelier des peintres modernes, caricature by Émile Benassit from Le Boulevard, issue 1, 1861

In the Salon of 1857, Courbet showed six paintings. These included Young Ladies on the Banks of the Seine (Summer) , depicting two prostitutes under a tree, as well as the first of many hunting scenes Courbet was to paint during the remainder of his life: Hind at Bay in the Snow and The Quarry. [10]

Young Ladies on the Banks of the Seine, painted in 1856, [29] provoked a scandal. Art critics accustomed to conventional, "timeless" nude women in landscapes were shocked by Courbet's depiction of modern women casually displaying their undergarments. [30]

By exhibiting sensational works alongside hunting scenes, of the sort that had brought popular success to the English painter Edwin Landseer, Courbet guaranteed himself "both notoriety and sales". [31] During the 1860s, Courbet painted a series of increasingly erotic works such as Femme nue couchée .

This culminated in The Origin of the World (L'Origine du monde) (1866), which depicts female genitalia and was not publicly exhibited until 1988, [32] and Sleep (1866), featuring two women in bed. The latter painting became the subject of a police report when it was exhibited by a picture dealer in 1872. [33]

Until about 1861, Napoléon's regime had exhibited authoritarian characteristics, using press censorship to prevent the spread of opposition, manipulating elections, and depriving Parliament of the right to free debate or any real power. In the 1860s, however, Napoléon III made more concessions to placate his liberal opponents. This change began by allowing free debates in Parliament and public reports of parliamentary debates. Press censorship, too, was relaxed and culminated in the appointment of the Liberal Émile Ollivier, previously a leader of the opposition to Napoléon's regime, as the de facto Prime Minister in 1870. As a sign of appeasement to the Liberals who admired Courbet, Napoleon III nominated him to the Legion of Honour in 1870. His refusal of the cross of the Legion of Honour angered those in power but made him immensely popular with those who opposed the prevailing regime.

Courbet and the Paris Commune

A satirical sketch of Gustave Courbet taking down a "Rambuteau column" (a urinal), caricature published by a popular Commune newspaper, the Pere Duchene illustre PereDuchesneIllustre7 1 0.png
A satirical sketch of Gustave Courbet taking down a "Rambuteau column" (a urinal), caricature published by a popular Commune newspaper, the Père Duchêne illustré
Commune officials pose with the wreckage of the Vendome column, pulled down based on a suggestion of Courbet. After the fall of the Commune, he was ordered to pay the cost of putting the column back up. Colonne vendome.jpg
Commune officials pose with the wreckage of the Vendôme column, pulled down based on a suggestion of Courbet. After the fall of the Commune, he was ordered to pay the cost of putting the column back up.

On 4 September 1870, during the Franco-Prussian War, Courbet made a proposal that later came back to haunt him. He wrote a letter to the Government of National Defense, proposing that the column in the Place Vendôme, erected by Napoleon I to honour the victories of the French Army, be taken down. He wrote:

In as much as the Vendôme Column is a monument devoid of all artistic value, tending to perpetuate by its expression the ideas of war and conquest of the past imperial dynasty, which are reproved by a republican nation's sentiment, citizen Courbet expresses the wish that the National Defense government will authorize him to disassemble this column." [34]

Courbet proposed that the Column be moved to a more appropriate place, such as the Hotel des Invalides, a military hospital. He also wrote an open letter addressed to the German Army and to German artists, proposing that German and French cannons should be melted down and crowned with a liberty cap, and made into a new monument on Place Vendôme, dedicated to the federation of the German and French people. The Government of National Defense did nothing about his suggestion to tear down the column, but it was not forgotten. [35]

On 18 March, in the aftermath of the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, a revolutionary government called the Paris Commune briefly took power in the city. Courbet played an active part and organized a Federation of Artists, which held its first meeting on 5 April in the Grand Amphitheater of the School of Medicine. Some three hundred to four hundred painters, sculptors, architects, and decorators attended. There were some famous names on the list of members, including André Gill, Honoré Daumier, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Eugène Pottier, Jules Dalou, and Édouard Manet. Manet was not in Paris during the Commune and did not attend, and Corot, who was seventy-five years old, stayed in a country house and his studio during the Commune, not taking part in the political events.

Courbet chaired the meeting and proposed that the Louvre and the Museum of the Luxembourg Palace, the two major art museums of Paris, closed during the uprising, be reopened as soon as possible and that the traditional annual exhibit called the Salon be held as in years past, but with radical differences. He proposed that the Salon should be free of any government interference or rewards to preferred artists; no medals or government commissions would be given. Furthermore, he called for the abolition of the most famous state institutions of French art; the École des Beaux-Arts, the School of Rome, the School of Athens, and the Fine Arts section of the Institute of France. [36]

On 12 April, the Executive Committee of the Commune gave Courbet, though he was not yet officially a member of the Commune, the assignment of opening the museums and organizing the Salon. They issued the following decree at the same meeting: "The Column of the Place Vendôme will be demolished." [37] On 16 April, special elections were held to replace more moderate members of the Commune who had resigned their seats, and Courbet was elected as a delegate for the 6th arrondissement. He was given the title of Delegate of Fine Arts, and on 21 April he was also made a member of the Commission on Education. At the meeting of the Commission on 27 April, the minutes reported that Courbet requested the demolition of the Vendôme column be carried out and that the column would be replaced by an allegorical figure representing the taking of power of the Commune on 18 March. [37]

Nonetheless, Courbet was a dissident by nature, and he was soon in opposition with the majority of the Commune members on some of its measures. He was one of a minority of Commune Members who opposed the creation of a Committee on Public Safety, modeled on the committee of the same name which carried out the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution. [38]

Courbet opposed the Commune on another more serious matter; the arrest of his friend Gustave Chaudey, a prominent socialist, magistrate, and journalist, whose portrait Courbet had painted. The popular Commune newspaper, Le Père Duchesne , accused Chaudey, when he was briefly deputy mayor of the 9th arrondissement before the Commune was formed, of ordering soldiers to fire on a crowd that had surrounded the Hotel de Ville. Courbet's opposition was of no use; on 23 May 1871, in the final days of the Commune, Chaudey was shot by a Commune firing squad. According to some sources Courbet resigned from the Commune in protest. [39]

On 13 May, on the proposal of Courbet, the Paris house of Adolphe Thiers, the chief executive of the French government, was demolished, and his art collection confiscated. Courbet proposed that the confiscated art be given to the Louvre and other museums, but the director of the Louvre refused to accept it. [40] On 16 May, just nine days before the fall of the Commune, in a large ceremony with military bands and photographers, the Vendôme column was pulled down and broke into pieces. Some witnesses said Courbet was there, others denied it. The following day, the Federation of Artists debated dismissing directors of the Louvre and of the Luxembourg museums, suspected by some in the Commune of having secret contacts with the French government, and appointed new heads of the museums.

One of a series of still-life paintings Courbet made while in prison for his role in the Commune (1871). He was allowed an easel and paints, but he could not have models pose for him. Gustave Courbet, 1871, Still Life with Apples and a Pomegranate, National Gallery.jpg
One of a series of still-life paintings Courbet made while in prison for his role in the Commune (1871). He was allowed an easel and paints, but he could not have models pose for him.

According to one legend, Courbet defended the Louvre and other museums against "looting mobs", but there are no records of any such attacks on the museums. The only real threat to the Louvre came during "Bloody Week", 21–28 May 1871, when a unit of Communards, led by a Commune general, Jules Bergeret, set fire to the Tuileries Palace, next to the Louvre. [41] The fire spread to the library of the Louvre, which was destroyed, but the efforts of museum curators and firemen saved the art gallery. [42]

After the final suppression of the Commune by the French army on 28 May, Courbet went into hiding in the apartments of different friends. He was arrested on 7 June. At his trial before a military tribunal on 14 August, Courbet argued that he had only joined the Commune to pacify it and that he had wanted to move the Vendôme Column, not destroy it. He said he had only belonged to the Commune for a short period, and rarely attended its meetings. He was convicted, but given a lighter sentence than other Commune leaders; six months in prison and a fine of five hundred Francs. Serving part of his sentence in the prison of Saint-Pelagie in Paris, he was allowed an easel and paints, but he could not have models pose for him. He did a famous series of still-life paintings of flowers and fruit. [43]

Exile and death

The Trout, 1871 Gustave Courbet - The Trout - WGA05474.jpg
The Trout, 1871

Courbet completed his prison sentence on 2 March 1872, but his problems caused by the destruction of the Vendôme Column were still not over. In 1873, the newly elected president of the Republic, Patrice Mac-Mahon, announced plans to rebuild the column, with the cost to be paid by Courbet. Unable to pay, Courbet went into a self-imposed exile in Switzerland to avoid bankruptcy. In the following years, he participated in Swiss regional and national exhibitions. Surveilled by the Swiss intelligence service, he enjoyed in the small Swiss art world the reputation as head of the "realist school" and inspired younger artists such as Auguste Baud-Bovy and Ferdinand Hodler. [44]

Important works from this period include several paintings of trout, "hooked and bleeding from the gills", [45] that have been interpreted as allegorical self-portraits of the exiled artist. [45] In his final years, Courbet painted landscapes, including several scenes of water mysteriously emerging from the depths of the earth in the Jura Mountains of the France–Switzerland border. [46] Courbet also worked on sculpture during his exile. Previously, in the early 1860s, he had produced a few sculptures, one of which – the Fisherman of Chavots (1862) – he donated to Ornans for a public fountain, but it was removed after Courbet's arrest. [47]

In May 1877, the state set the final cost of reconstructing the Vendôme Column at 323,000 francs for Courbet to repay in annual installments of 10,000 francs for the next 33 years. [48] On 31 December 1877, a day before the first installment was due, [49] Courbet died, aged 58, in La Tour-de-Peilz, Switzerland, of a liver disease aggravated by heavy drinking.

Legacy

Claude Monet, Le Dejeuner sur l'herbe (right section), with Gustave Courbet, 1865-66, Musee d'Orsay, Paris Monet dejeunersurlherbe.jpg
Claude Monet, Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe (right section), with Gustave Courbet, 1865–66, Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Courbet was admired by many younger artists. Claude Monet included a portrait of Courbet in his own version of Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe from 1865–1866 (Musée d'Orsay, Paris). Courbet's particular kind of realism influenced many artists to follow, notably among them the German painters of the Leibl circle, [50] James McNeill Whistler, and Paul Cézanne. Courbet's influence can also be seen in the work of Edward Hopper, whose Bridge in Paris (1906) and Approaching a City (1946) have been described as Freudian echoes of Courbet's The Source of the Loue and The Origin of the World. [51] His pupils included Henri Fantin-Latour, Hector Hanoteau and Olaf Isaachsen.

Courbet once wrote this in a letter:

I have always lived in freedom; let me end my life free; when I am dead let this be said of me: 'He belonged to no school, to no church, to no institution, to no academy, least of all to any régime except the régime of liberty.' [52]

Courbet and Cubism

Young Ladies Beside the Seine (Summer), 1856, Petit Palais, Paris: one of Courbet's best-known paintings, exemplifying his "uncompromising emphasis on density and weight" Gustave Courbet 027.jpg
Young Ladies Beside the Seine (Summer) , 1856, Petit Palais, Paris: one of Courbet's best-known paintings, exemplifying his "uncompromising emphasis on density and weight"

Two 19th-century artists prepared the way for the emergence of Cubism in the 20th century: Courbet and Cézanne. [54] Cézanne's contributions are well-known. [55] Courbet's importance was announced by Guillaume Apollinaire, poet-spokesperson for the Cubists. Writing in Les Peintres Cubistes, Méditations Esthétiques (1913) he declared, "Courbet is the father of the new painters." [56] Jean Metzinger and Albert Gleizes often portrayed Courbet as the father of all modern art. [56]

Both artists sought to transcend the conventional methods of rendering nature; Cézanne through a dialectical method revealing the process of seeing, Courbet by his materialism. [57] The Cubists would combine these two approaches in developing a revolution in art. [58]

On a formal level, Courbet wished to convey the physical characteristics of what he was painting: its density, weight, and texture. Art critic John Berger said: "No painter before Courbet was ever able to emphasize so uncompromisingly the density and weight of what he was painting." [59] This emphasis on material reality endowed his subjects with dignity. [60] Berger observed that the Cubist painters "were at great pains to establish the physical presence of what they were representing. And in this, they are the heirs of Courbet." [61]

Nazi-looted art

During the Third Reich (1933-1945) Jewish art collectors throughout Europe had their property seized as part of the Holocaust. Many artworks created by Courbet were looted by Nazis and their agents during this period and have only recently been reclaimed by the families of the previous owners.

Courbet's La Falaise d'Etretat was owned by the Jewish collector Marc Wolfson and his wife Erna, who both were murdered in Auschwitz. After disappearing during the Nazi Occupation of France, it reappeared years later at the musée d'Orsay [62]

The great Hungarian Jewish collector Baron Mor Lipot Herzog owned several Courbet artworks, including Le Chateau de Blonay (Neige) (circa 1875, "The Chateau of Blonay (Snow)", now at the Budapest Museum of Fine Arts), [63] and Courbet's most infamous work — L'Origine du monde ("The Origin of the World"). His collection of 2000-2500 pieces was looted by Nazis and many are still missing. [64]

Gustav Courbet's paintings Village Girl With Goat, The Father, and Landscape With Rocks were discovered in the Gurlitt Trove of art stashed in Munich. It is not known to whom they belonged. [65] [66]

Josephine Weinmann and her family, who were German Jews, had owned Le Grand Pont before they were forced to flee. The Nazi militant Herbert Schaefer acquired it and loaned it to the Yale University Art Gallery, against whom the Weinmanns filed a claim. [67]

The French Database of Art Objects at the Jeu de Paume (Cultural Plunder by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg) has 41 entries for Courbet. [68]

See also

Notes

  1. Political turmoil delayed the opening of the Salon of 1850 until 30 December 1850. [15]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Édouard Manet</span> French painter (1832–1883)

Édouard Manet was a French modernist painter. He was one of the first 19th-century artists to paint modern life, as well as a pivotal figure in the transition from Realism to Impressionism.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Paul Cézanne</span> French painter (1839–1906)

Paul Cézanne was a French artist and Post-Impressionist painter whose work laid the foundations of the transition from the 19th-century conception of artistic endeavour to a new and radically different world of art in the 20th century. Cézanne is said to have formed the bridge between late 19th-century Impressionism and the early 20th century's new line of artistic enquiry, Cubism.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Musée d'Orsay</span> Art museum in Paris, France

The Musée d'Orsay is a museum in Paris, France, on the Left Bank of the Seine. It is housed in the former Gare d'Orsay, a Beaux-Arts railway station built between 1898 and 1900. The museum holds mainly French art dating from 1848 to 1914, including paintings, sculptures, furniture, and photography. It houses the largest collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist masterpieces in the world, by painters including Berthe Morisot, Claude Monet, Édouard Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, Seurat, Sisley, Gauguin, and Van Gogh. Many of these works were held at the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume prior to the museum's opening in 1986. It is one of the largest art museums in Europe.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gustave Caillebotte</span> French painter

Gustave Caillebotte was a French painter who was a member and patron of the Impressionists, although he painted in a more realistic manner than many others in the group. Caillebotte was known for his early interest in photography as an art form.

<i>LOrigine du monde</i> Oil-on-canvas painted by Gustave Courbet

L'Origine du monde is a picture painted in oil on canvas by the French artist Gustave Courbet in 1866. It is a close-up view of the vulva and abdomen of a naked woman, lying on a bed with legs spread.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Paul Gachet</span> French physician who treated the painter Vincent van Gogh during his last weeks

Paul-Ferdinand Gachet was a French physician most famous for treating the painter Vincent van Gogh during his last weeks in Auvers-sur-Oise. Gachet was a great supporter of artists and the Impressionist movement. He was an amateur painter, signing his works "Paul van Ryssel", referring to his birthplace: Rijsel is the Dutch name of Lille.

<i>The Painters Studio</i>

The Painter's Studio: A real allegory summing up seven years of my artistic and moral life is an 1855 oil on canvas painting by Gustave Courbet. It is located in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, France.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Alfred Philippe Roll</span> French painter

Alfred Philippe Roll was a French painter.

<i>A Burial At Ornans</i>

A Burial At Ornans is a painting of 1849–50 by Gustave Courbet, and one of the major turning points of 19th-century French art. The painting records the funeral in September 1848 of his great-uncle in the painter's birthplace, the small town of Ornans. It treats an ordinary provincial funeral with unflattering realism, and on the giant scale traditionally reserved for the heroic or religious scenes of history painting. Its exhibition at the 1850–51 Paris Salon created an "explosive reaction" and brought Courbet instant fame. It is currently displayed at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, France.

<i>Portrait of Gustave Geffroy</i> Painting by Paul Cézanne

Portrait of Gustave Geffroy is a c. 1895 painting by the French Post-Impressionist artist Paul Cézanne. It portrays Gustave Geffroy, a French novelist and art critic noted as one of the earliest historians of Impressionism.

<i>Le ruisseau noir</i> Painting by Gustave Courbet

Le ruisseau noir is an oil-on-canvas landscape painted by French artist, Gustave Courbet, in 1865. It is currently held and exhibited at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jules-Antoine Castagnary</span>

Jules-Antoine Castagnary was a French liberal politician, journalist and progressive and influential art critic, who embraced the new term "Impressionist" in his positive and perceptive review of the first Impressionist show, in Le Siècle, 29 April 1874.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Musée Courbet</span> Art museum in Place Robert Fernier

The Musée Courbet or Courbet Museum is a museum dedicated to the French painter Gustave Courbet. It is located in Ornans in the Doubs-Franche-Comté area of France.

Antoine Guillemet French painter

Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Guillemet was a French renowned landscape painter and longtime Jury member of the Salon des Artistes Francais. He was one of the first 19th-century artists to paint modern life, and a pivotal figure in the transition from Realism to Impressionism.

<i>The Wrestlers</i> (Courbet)

The Wrestlers is a large 1853 painting by Gustave Courbet, now in the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest]. It shows two men engaged in 'French wrestling', inspired by Greco-Roman wrestling. Documents reveal that it shows a match in the former hippodrome on the Champs-Élysées in Paris. His choice of such a huge canvas inspired Alexandre Falguière's 1875 The Wrestlers.

<i>The Bathers</i> (Courbet)

The Bathers is a painting by Gustave Courbet, first exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1853, where it caused a major scandal. It was unanimously attacked by art critics for the huge nude woman at its centre and the sketchy landscape background, both against official artistic canons. It was bought for 3000 francs by Courbet's future friend Alfred Bruyas, an art collector – this acquisition allowed the artist to become financially and artistically independent. It is signed and dated in the bottom right hand corner on a small rock. It has been in the musée Fabre in Montpellier since 1868.

<i>The Romans in their Decadence</i> Painting by Thomas Couture

The Romans in their Decadence is a painting by the French artist Thomas Couture, first exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1847, a year before the 1848 Revolution which toppled the July Monarchy. It was the most highly praised work at the Salon. Reminiscent of the style of Raphael, it is typical of the French 'classic' style between 1850 and 1900. It now belongs to the Musée d'Orsay in Paris. It was etched by Edmond Hédouin (1820–1889).

<i>The Oak at Flagey</i>

The Oak at Flagey or The Vercingetorix Oak is an oil on canvas landscape painting by Gustave Courbet, created in 1864, measuring 89 by 110 cm. It shows an oak near the Courbet family farm in the village of Flagey, Doubs, a few kilometres from Ornans in Franche-Comté, named in relation to Vercingetorix. The oak was later struck by lightning and no longer survives. The painting is held at the Musée Courbet, in Paris.

<i>Young Ladies of the Village</i>

Young Ladies of the Village or The Village Maids is an 1852 oil on canvas painting by Gustave Courbet, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York. It is signed bottom left "G. Courbet".

<i>Homage to Delacroix</i> 1864 painting by Henri Fantin-Latour

Homage to Delacroix is an 1864 painting by Henri Fantin-Latour painted in homage to the French Romantic painter Eugène Delacroix who died the year before. The work features a group of painters and writers, all of whom went on to become notable themselves, gathered around a portrait of the late Delacroix. The painting was exhibited in the Paris Salon of 1864. Today the painting is part of the permanent collection of the Musee d'Orsay in Paris.

References

  1. "Courbet, Gustave". Lexico UK English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. Archived from the original on 27 August 2022.
  2. "Courbet". Merriam-Webster Dictionary . Retrieved 3 August 2019.
  3. Frantz, Henri (1911). "Courbet, Gustave"  . In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica . Vol. 7 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 318–319.
  4. Berman, Avis (April 2008). "Larger than Life". Smithsonian Magazine . Archived from the original on 2 July 2009. Retrieved 3 April 2008.
  5. Masanès 2006 , pp. 8–9
  6. Frantz 1911.
  7. Faunce & Nochlin 1988 , p. 83
  8. Masanès 2006 , pp. 31–32
  9. Masanès 2006 , p. 30
  10. 1 2 Masanès 2006 , p. 55
  11. 1 2 Masanès 2006 , p. 31
  12. 1 2 Faunce & Nochlin 1988 , p. 7
  13. Haine, Scott (2000). The History of France (1st ed.). Greenwood Press. p.  112. ISBN   0-313-30328-2.
  14. "Gustave Courbet's A Burial at Ornans". pbs.org. Archived from the original on 12 November 2012. Retrieved 29 August 2017.
  15. Faunce & Nochlin 1988, p. 2
  16. Faunce & Nochlin 1988 , p. 79
  17. 1 2 Faunce & Nochlin 1988 , p. 4
  18. James, Jamie (2016). The Glamour of Strangeness: Artists and the Last Age of the Exotic. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. p. 99. ISBN   9780374711320.
  19. Faunce & Nochlin 1988 , p. 8
  20. Faunce & Nochlin 1988 , pp. 8–9
  21. "'Le chef de l'école du laid': Gustave Courbet in 19th-century caricatures. European studies blog". blogs.bl.uk. Archived from the original on 7 August 2020. Retrieved 18 September 2017.
  22. Courbet, Gustave: artchive.com Archived 30 December 2009 at the Wayback Machine citing Perl, Jed: Gallery Going: Four Seasons in the Art World, 1991, Harcourt, ISBN   978-0-15-134260-0.
  23. 1 2 Masanès 2006 , p. 52
  24. Masanès 2006 , p. 48
  25. Toussaint, Helene (1978). Gustave Courbet, 1819–1877 : [exhibition] at the Royal Academy of Arts, 19 January – 19 March 1978 : [catalog]. London: Arts Council of Great Britain. [An exhibition organ. by the Réunion des Musées Nationaux. Organ. committee: Alan Bowness...] p. 265. ISBN   0-7287-0152-9.
  26. Faunce & Nochlin 1988 , p. 84
  27. "The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Nineteenth-Century French Realism, Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History". Archived from the original on 13 December 2018. Retrieved 1 December 2014.
  28. "Exhibition and sale of forty paintings and four drawings by Gustave Courbet, Paris 1855, Courbet speaks, Musée d'Orsay". Archived from the original on 1 August 2016. Retrieved 1 December 2014.
  29. "Gustave Courbet – Les Demoiselles Au Bord De La Seine". art.yodelout.com. Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 5 July 2014.
  30. "Young Ladies on the Bank of the Seine, National Galleries". www.nationalgallery.org. Archived from the original on 29 January 2015. Retrieved 5 July 2014.
  31. Schwabsky 2008 , p. 30
  32. Schwabsky 2008 , p. 34
  33. Faunce & Nochlin 1988 , p. 176
  34. ""Attendu que la colonne Vendôme est un monument dénué de toute valeur artistique, tendant à perpétuer par son expression les idées de guerre et de conquête qui étaient dans la dynastie impériale, mais que réprouve le sentiment d'une nation républicaine, [le citoyen Courbet] émet le vœu que le gouvernement de la Défense nationale veuille bien l'autoriser à déboulonner cette colonne". Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 14 December 2009.
  35. Milza 2009 , p. 294
  36. Milza 2009 , pp. 296–297
  37. 1 2 Riat 1906 , p.  295
  38. Milza 2009 , pp. 294–295
  39. See French Wikipedia article on Courbet.
  40. Milza 2009 , pp. 294–296, 297
  41. Milza 2009 , pp. 396–397
  42. Héron de Villefosse, René (1959). Histoire de Paris. Bernard Grasset.
  43. Riat 1906 , pp. 120–122
  44. Fischer 2009 , pp. 57–80
  45. 1 2 Danto 1989 , p. 100
  46. Fumey, Gilles (2007). "Courbet, peintre du calcaire". Karstologia (in French). 50: 49–51. doi:10.3406/karst.2007.2611. Archived from the original on 8 July 2019. Retrieved 22 February 2019.
  47. Herding 1998
  48. Bénédite, Léonce (1912). "Gustave Courbet: With a Biographical and Critical Study".
  49. "Proceedings of the ... Annual Meeting of the Western Society for French History". 1989.
  50. Forster-Hahn 2001 , p. 155
  51. Wells, Walter, Silent Theater: The Art of Edward Hopper, London/New York: Phaidon, 2007.
  52. Courbet, Gustave: Letters of Gustave Courbet, 1992, University of Chicago Press, Translated by Petra Ten-Doesschate Chu, ISBN   0-226-11653-0. (Google Books Archived 16 April 2016 at the Wayback Machine )
  53. Berger 1965 , p. 52: "You can see it in the way [Courbet] painted an apple or a wave, or in the way, he painted the heavy languor and creased dresses of two girls lying by the Seine."
  54. Berger 1965 , p. 51: "The preparations for the revolution of Cubism were begun in the nineteenth century by two artists: Courbet and Cézanne." and p. 55: "the revolutionary inheritance that the nineteenth century bequeathed to the twentieth century: the materialism of Courbet and the dialectic of Cézanne."
  55. Berger 1965 , p. 51: "The importance of Cézanne for the Cubists has been stressed so often that it has become a commonplace."
  56. 1 2 Guillaume Apollinaire, Les Peintres Cubistes (The Cubist Painters), 1913 Archived 2 August 2020 at the Wayback Machine , (translated and analyzed by Peter F. Read, University of California Press, 25 October 2004, pp. 27, 137
  57. Berger 1965 , pp. 51–52: "Both Courbet and Cézanne change the emphasis of the painter's approach to nature: Courbet by his materialism, Cézanne in his dialectical view of the process of looking at nature."
  58. Berger 1965 , pp. 55–56: "The task was to combine the two. Followed up separately, each would lead to a cul-de-sac: Courbet's materialism would become mechanical; the force of gravity, which gave such dignity to his subjects, would become oppressive and literal. Cézanne's dialectic would become more and more disembodied and its harmony would be obtained at the price of physical indifference. Today, both examples are followed up separately." (italics in original).
  59. Berger 1965 , p. 52
  60. Berger 1965 , pp. 52–53: "Courbet, whilst still using paint on canvas, wanted to go beyond [pictorial] conventions and find the equivalent of the physical sensation of the material objects portrayed: their weight, their temperature, their texture. What perspective towards the horizon meant to Poussin, the force of gravity meant to Courbet." (italics in original).
  61. Berger 1965 , p. 58
  62. "Tableaux spoliés. La France peut mieux faire". www.lootedart.com. Paris Match. Archived from the original on 5 February 2021. Retrieved 5 February 2021.
  63. "After 75 Years and 15 Claims, a Bid to Regain Lost Art Inches Forward". www.lootedart.com. New York Times. Archived from the original on 5 February 2021. Retrieved 5 February 2021.
  64. "Happy ending for looted Courbet painting in Paris exhibit". www.lootedart.com. International Herald Tribune. Archived from the original on 9 January 2021. Retrieved 5 February 2021.
  65. Kimmelman, Michael (6 November 2013). "In a Rediscovered Trove of Art, a Triumph Over the Nazis' Will (Published 2013)". The New York Times. ISSN   0362-4331. Archived from the original on 12 November 2013. Retrieved 5 February 2021.
  66. "Nazi-Seized Stash in Munich Includes Unknown Dix, Chagall". lootedart.com. Archived from the original on 22 June 2021. Retrieved 5 February 2021.
  67. RENOLD, Professor Marc-André. "Cross-border restitution claims of art looted in armed conflicts and wars and alternatives to court litigations" (PDF). European Parliament's Committee on Legal Affairs. Archived (PDF) from the original on 31 August 2021. Retrieved 5 February 2021.
  68. "Cultural Plunder by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg: Database of Art Objects at the Jeu de Paume". errproject.org/jeudepaume/. Archived from the original on 18 June 2021.
Works cited

Further reading

Monographs on the art and life of Courbet have been written by Estignard (Paris, 1874), D'Ideville, (Paris, 1878), Silvestre in Les artistes français, (Paris, 1878), Isham in Van Dyke's Modern French Masters (New York, 1896), Meier-Graefe, Corot and Courbet, (Leipzig, 1905), Cazier (Paris, 1906), Riat, (Paris, 1906), Muther, (Berlin, 1906), Robin, (Paris, 1909), Benedite, (Paris, 1911) and Lazár Béla (Paris, 1911). Consult also Muther, History of Modern Painting, volume ii (London, 1896, 1907); Patoux, "Courbet" in Les artistes célèbres and La vérité sur Courbet (Paris, 1879); Le Men, Courbet (New York, 2008).

Commons-logo.svg Media related to Gustave Courbet at Wikimedia Commons