Gustave Courbet Artworks & Paints
Gustave Courbet was born in Ornans in 1819 and moved to Paris at the age of twenty to study law, but nevertheless devoted himself to painting. In Paris he received his artistic training, worked at the Swiss Academy and copied works from the Louvre Museum.
At first, he paints landscapes, especially the forests of Fontainebleau and portraits, with some romantic traits. He developed a naturalistic style and represented scenes from everyday life, portraits, nudes or landscapes.
Courbet participated in the Revolution of 1848. From 1849 he became a realist and rejected the idealization of art and archetypal beauty. He will be in favor of the direct representation of the environment, of the naturalistic, anti-academic and anti-classical representation.
He chooses his themes from everyday reality, reflects work and the worker as a new hero, life in the open air, the city with its streets, cafes and dances, women and death. He believed that art could correct social contradictions. His painting aroused enormous controversy over the choice of female nudes.
Gustave Courbet Artwork Technique
His technique is characterized by a limited and vigorous palette, his compositions are simple, he uses thick strokes of very pasted paint that he often applied with a spatula, especially in landscapes and seascapes. His figures have a solid and severe modeling.
Courbet was appointed by the revolutionary Paris Commune in 1871 director of the city’s museums. However, after the fall of the Commune, he is accused of having allowed the demolition of Napoleon’s triumphal column located in Place Vendôme. Imprisoned and sentenced to pay reparation, he decided to go into exile in Switzerland in 1873, where he continued to paint until his death on December 31, 1877.
Like Millet, Courbet also painted scenes in which the peasant woman appears, but above all he cultivated the female nude with great freedom.
The Bathers (1853)
The painting aroused great indignation. It represents two women near a pond. One of them, the most opulent, appears almost completely naked and seen from behind.
The Nap (1866)
It is a work treated with great naturalism and full of sensuality. In it Courbet recreates the bodies as well as the secondary details. At the time it was seen as an allusion to the pornographic and homosexuality.
Courbet’s main works
The Painter’s Workshop (1855)
The work is a manifesto of Realism. It represents his studio in Paris dividing the scene into three groups. In the center he stands himself, on the right, his friends, and on the left, those his enemies, the things he fought and the poor, the dispossessed and the losers.
In the background are two paintings by Courbet himself that had angered critics when they were exhibited, The Return of the Fair and The Bathers.
In the group on the left are a Chinese, a Jew, a veteran of the French Revolution, a worker and an Irish woman. The figure in the foreground dressed as a hunter is Napoleon III.
In the center, an easel with a large landscape of his homeland. The woman standing next to Courbet represents the naked Truth that guides the artist’s brush, eager to paint pictures that faithfully reflect life.
Behind the easel, you can see the figure of a crucified, symbolizing academic art, which he rejected so much.
On the right of the painting, Courbet portrayed some of his friends, the art collector Alfred Bruyas or the utopian socialist Pierre Joseph Proudhon. The central figure in the group is the writer Champfleury, founder of literary realism, and the man reading at the table on the right is the poet Charles Baudelaire.
The burial of Count Ornans
It is a large painting, considered very scandalous by critics for representing a vulgar subject. The subject is a religious event, The Burial at Ornans. None of the attendees pray or reflect his pain, if not that we find cold and frozen expressions. Very few pay attention to the coffin, the tomb or the priest who is officiating the burial. Even the group of priests present seem to have their thoughts elsewhere. It alludes to the role of the Church and also reflects the internal tensions of this society. What brings these people together is their belonging to a social group and not religious devotion. The painting shows us a social event, lacking a deeper meaning.
Good morning Mr Courbet or the meeting (1854)
In the painting you can see Bruyas and his servant, who have gone out to the road to receive the painter. He dresses like a hiker, he holds a thick and tall cane and on his back he carries his box of paintings. The setting is totally natural and plausible. The work is a metaphor about the artist himself, as Courbet was not accepted by critics