Gustave Courbet Biography | Oil Paintings
6-10-1819 Ornans, FRA - 12-31-1877 La Tour-de-Peilz, SUIBack to Artist IndexView Artists Paintings
A French painter, Gustave Courbet was the leader of the Realist movement. Born in Orman's in the Jura region, Courbet remained fiercely loyal to this area throughout his life, featuring it prominently in his paintings. Although he later claimed to be self-taught, he actually studied under a succession of minor artists but learned more from copying old masters in the Louvre.
Initially, Courbet aimed for conventional success by exhibiting at the Salon, even winning a gold medal for his 1849 entry. After he showed A Burial at Ornans, however official approval evaporated. Instead, this landmark Realist picture was savagely criticized for being too large, too ugly and too meaningless. Worse still, in light of the recent 1848 Revolution, the artist was suspected of having a political agenda.
Gustave Courbet revealed in the furor. In the following years, he gained greater recognition abroad but remained antagonistic towards the French Establishment. He refused to exhibit at the 1855 World Fair, turned down the offer of a Legion of Honor and served as a Councilor in the Paris Commune. The latter proved his undoing and was forced to spend his final years exiled in Switzerland
Gustave Courbet In Search of New Heroes.
In 1855 can be considered a pivotal year of the Realism Art movement in France. This was the year that Gustave Courbet set up his own makeshift show, the Pavilion du Realisme, opposite the official Paris Salon, to show a large number of works that had been rejected by the official exhibit. His initiative pointed to the existence of a movement that had already been active for several years, but had not yet been given a name or acknowledged by the critics.
Courbet, however, does not produce a mere external imitation but attempts to identify with all aspects of reality. The dark, heavy paintings of subjects that were often unsavory or even obscene were in conflict with the bourgeois ideals and, therefore, not well received by critics at the beginning.
The Artists Studio, this self-portrait, charged with ideological and moral significance, became the manifesto for a new way of conceiving the artist's role in society. Courbet is at his easel painting a landscape. Next to him is a nude model, a large white cat, and a child, symbolizing purity and innocence. He is surrounded by two symmetrical groups of figures, on the right side are his relatives, friends, and pupils and on the left side are characters from daily life. These two separate groups represent the eternal conflict between winners and losers, rich and poor. The artist in the center of the scene is the interpreter and mediator of this reality.
Why does Women's Pubic Hair in Art Cause Such Outrage?
During the 1860s, Gustave Courbet painted a series of increasingly erotic works such as Femme Nue couchée (Nude Reclining Woman), of which there was nothing really naughty that had not been done before (The painting was sold at auction in 2015 for us$15.3 million). Since he was being harassed and to show the hypocritical social conventions of the Second Empire, where eroticism and even pornography were acceptable in mythological paintings. His nude paintings culminated in The Origin of the World (L'Origine du monde), the first realistic painting of a vulva to be exhibited in the Western art which depicts graphic female genitalia and was not publicly exhibited until 1988. The female model for the painting was the lover of the American painter James Whistler, a friend of Courbet, which explains Courbet's and Whistler's brutal separation a short while later. To protect her identity, Courbet painted her with darker pubic hair as opposed to her natural red hair and cut the head off the final painting so no one would know. The head has since been found and it matches the rest of the canvas. The other oil painting, The Sleep, featuring two naked women in bed prompted the police to come and file a report when it was exhibited in a gallery in 1872.
On a separate note, why is it that in the course of sculpting and painting thousands of nude women through the centuries, not one has shown pubic hair or even vulva, in contrast to nude paintings or sculptures of men? All the paintings of women, through the ages, have been devoid of pubic hair, which certainly was not the case or the fashion in those days up until only recently. Courbet dared to do something 160 years ago that even by today's standards make some people uncomfortable.
Courbet in Vinculis Faciebat. Made by Courbet in Chains.
“Courbet in vinculis faciebat”, this Latin phrase “made by Courbet in chains” is the signature on this extremely unusual painting The Trout dated 1871. The remains of this large trout caught on a hook conceal a dramatic self-portrait. Jailed for political and moral reasons and forced into exile, Courbet identifies with the agonizing, bleeding fish dragged out of its element without any possibility of escape. Even without knowing its background, it remains a masterpiece of immediacy in the pulsating sympathetic handling of the gasping fish and his typical palette of dull, dark earthy tones of gray-brown.
Gustave Courbet was an artist willing to make very bold social statements through his artwork and because of it, occupies an important place in nineteenth-century art.
Art Movement History: Realism.
Artists Influencing Courbet: Jean-François Millet, Diego Velazquez, Le Nain Brothers.
He Traveled To Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland.
Painters Gustave Courbet Influenced: Edouard Manet, James Whistler, Paul Cézanne, Edward Hopper, Henri Fantin-Latour, Hector Hanoteau, Olaf Isaachsen.
Artist's Biography compiled by Albert L. Mansour at The World's Artist.