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Courbet, Gustave (1819–1877)

Walter R. Herscher

Subject Art » Art History
Study of History » Comparative History

Place Western Europe » France

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1800-1899, 1900-1999

Key-Topics monarchy, revolution, socialism

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405184649.2009.00419.x


Gustave Courbet was a nineteenth-century French Realist who countered the prevailing method of painting that idealized subjects. Courbet pledged to paint only what he saw. His art was revolutionary in style but not necessarily in political themes. Courbet's controversial paintings gained him notoriety and publicity at a time when conservatives equated Realist painters with political radicals. A general tenet of nineteenth-century painting was that only important events should be painted on large canvases; however, Courbet intentionally painted everyday scenes on them, possibly suggesting that the common people were as important as the upper classes. During the February 1848 revolution that overthrew the July Monarchy, Courbet sketched an image of a man brandishing a rifle on a barricade for publication in a newspaper; however, he refused to fight in the revolution or the June insurrection . Courbet first received major attention at the 1849 Salon for his painting After Dinner at Ornans , a painting portraying rural bourgeoisie ladies not dressed in the expected Parisian bourgeois fashion. Courbet's failure to follow the clothing dictates of Paris and the imperial fashions of Napoléon III was viewed as a political statement. In the combined 1850–1 Salon he displayed three major paintings: Funeral at Ornans , which depicted a rural funeral attended by the local bourgeoisie; ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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