l’enterrement a Ornans, by Gustave Courbet

(Picture courtesy of Gautler Poupeau at flickr.com.)

l’atelier du peintre by Courbet
(the artist’s studio)

(Picture courtesy of  Gwendal Uguen at flickr.com.)

The artist Gustave Courbet put an imprint of realism on the world of art that carried through to other walks of life and still influences our world today.   His original style was formed in resistance to strictures and style that worked to make artistic representation of life resist and stay at odds with the very life it drew from.


Courbet’s Realism can be understood as part of the wider inquiry into the physical world that occupied science in the nineteenth century. But in his own realm of art, he was most inspired by his distaste for strictures of the French Academy. He rejected Classical or Romantic treatments and instead took humble scenes of country life – subjects usually considered the stuff of minor genre painting – and made them material for great history painting. For this he gained huge notoriety.
During the Paris Commune of 1871, Courbet briefly abandoned painting for a role in government. This was characteristic of his left-wing commitments. His art was not overtly political, but in the context of the time, he was not ignored as he expressed ideas of equality by heroicizing ordinary individuals, painting them at great scale and refusing to hide their imperfections.
In the process of clearing away the rhetoric of Academy painting, Courbet often settled on compositions that seemed collaged and crude to prevailing sensibilities. At times he also abandoned careful modeling in favor of applying paint thickly in broken flecks and slabs. Such stylistic innovations made him greatly admired by later modernists that promoted liberated compositions and amplified surface texture.
Instead of being completely reliant on the state-run Salon system, Courbet pioneered the solo retrospective as a private commercial venture, an approach that many later renegade artists followed.

Courbet made ‘warts and all’ part of the lexicon, his heritage and today’s attempt to stay true to the realities of our world.

A favorite quote of Courbet is; ‘”I am fifty years old and 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 regime except the regime of liberty.”‘

His most famous painting is placed at the top of this post, A Burial at Ornans.

The painting records the funeral in September 1848 of his great-uncle in the painter’s birthplace, the small town of Ornans.[1] 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.[2] It is currently displayed at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, France.

(Picture courtesy of Burcu Y. at flickr.com.)

Poor Woman of the Village by Courbet

(Picture courtesy of rocor at flickr.com.)

Stream of the Puit-Noir at Ornans, landscape by Courbet

Ruth Calvo

Ruth Calvo

I've blogged at The Seminal for about two years, was at cabdrollery for around three. I live in N.TX., worked for Sen.Yarborough of TX after graduation from Wellesley, went on to receive award in playwriting, served on MD Arts Council after award, then managed a few campaigns in MD and served as assistant to a member of the MD House for several years, have worked in legal offices and written for magazines, now am retired but addicted to politics, and join gladly in promoting liberals and liberal policies.