Born on 10 June 1845: Jean-Joseph-Benjamin“-”Constant,
French painter and printmaker who died on 26 May 1902, specialized in Orientalism.
— Benjamin-Constant (as he called himself) was a leading painter of Oriental themes and a teacher of French academic painting. He spent his youth in Toulouse, where he studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. A municipal scholarship enabled him to enter the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1866. By the following year he was a student in the Ecole de la Rue Bonaparte under the history painter Alexandre Cabanel, and he competed unsuccessfully for the Prix de Rome in 1868 and 1869.
His first Salon exhibit, Hamlet and the King (1869), established his reputation as a colorist. Constant submitted a number of other traditional history paintings, such as Samson and Delilah (1872). During the Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871), however, he traveled to Spain, visiting Madrid, Toledo, Córdoba and Granada, where he came under the influence of the Orientalist painter Mariano Fortuny y Marsal.
In 1872 Constant went to North Africa and stayed for two years, during which he was fascinated by the azure skies, colorful costumes and exotic beauty of the Moroccan people. Exotic harem women and dramatic quasi-historical subjects were the mainstay of Constant's output. — Constant's students included Ernest Leonard Blumenschein [26 May 1874 – 1960], Frank Dumond, William Horton, William Kendall, Caroline Lord, Granville Redmond, Guy Rose, Joseph Henry Sharp, Henry Ossawa Tanner, Sears Gallagher, Charles Courtney Curran, António Teixeira Carneiro, Carlos Baca Flor, Pedro Blanes Viale, Robert Brough, Józef Czajkowski, Paul Peel, Maurice Prendergast, Leo Putz, George Agnew Reid, José Veloso Salgado, Aurélia de Sousa, Henry Ossawa Tanner.— photo of Constant (1401x987pix, 144kb) — a later photo of Constant (846x651pix, 89kb)
— The Entry of Mahomet II into Constantinople (1876, 3390x2487pix, 4086kb)
— a different Entrance of Mohammed II into Constantinople (150x100cm, 2000x1319pix, 451kb)
— Arabian Nights (47x89cm; 528x1000pix, 111kb) — Contemplation (140x 93cm; 1000x648pix, 168kb) — Guarding the Chieftain (61x49cm; 1000x817pix, 260kb) — The Palace Guard with Two Leopards (100x62cm; 1000x585kb, 178kb) — L'Impératrice Théodora Au Colisée (157x133cm, 1189x1000pix, 232kb) — Herodiade (1881, 130x95cm; 1000x733pix, 203kb) — The Throne Room In Byzantium (101x74cm; 1440x1000pix, 247kb) Portrait of a Moor (47x41cm; 630x540pix, 90kb)
— Drying Clothes (900x708pix, 39kb) _ Unusual for Constant is this everyday scene of domestic work, the subject of which is a lowly woman. Her direct gaze may be a reflection of changing social perceptions in this period, whereby peasants were portrayed as proud and honest folk. The soft warm tones create an exotic languor which charm the onlooker with a dream of Eastern promise.
Born on 10 June 1557: Leandro
dal Ponte Bassano, Italian Mannerist
painter who died on 15 April 1622, son of Jacopo
Bassano [1510 – 13 Feb 1592], brother of Francesco
Bassano II [07 Jan 1549 – 03 Jul 1592] and of Gerolamo Bassano
[08 or 03 Jun 1566 – 08 Nov 1621]. Leandro Bassano's students included
Italian painter, one of the four sons of Jacopo Bassano. He worked in the Venetian studio of the family under Francesco, his elder brother who ran the Venetian branch of the workshop. Francesco committed suicide a few months after his father's death, then Leandro took over the workshop. He was the chief portrait painter of the family, and his portraits are closely allied to the portraits by Tintoretto. Leandro both acquired some distinction and popularity working in Venice, he was knighted by the Doge in 1595 or 1596 (thereafter he sometimes added 'Eques' to his signature).
— He entered the workshop of his father when very young and soon developed a style of painting strongly based on drawing. Leandro used fine brushwork, with cool, light colours, smoothly applied in well-defined areas, unlike his father, who painted with dense and robust brushstrokes. From 1575 Leandro’s participation in the workshop increased, and he became his father’s principal assistant after Francesco Bassano il giovane moved to Venice in 1578. Jacopo’s will indicated that Leandro should take over the running of the shop, for Francesco was infirm after his suicide attempt, Giambattista was mediocre and incompetent and Gerolamo was combining the painter’s trade with medical studies at the Univeristy of Padua.
Moses Striking the Rock (102x12cm)
Portrait of an Old Man (116x96cm) _ Formerly the painting was attributed to Tintoretto.
Born on 10 June 1880: André
Derain, French Fauvist painter and sculptor who died on
10 September 1954.
André Derain was a leader in several avant-garde art movements of the early 20th century. Born in Chatou, near Paris, he abandoned his early engineering studies to pursue an artistic career. In 1905, he became a member of the fauvist ("wild beast") group, along with Maurice de Vlaminck and Henri Matisse. The group was so named because of the savage nature of the bold and unrealistic color used by the artists (see Fauvism). Most of Derain's works of this period were landscapes and cityscapes, such as London Bridge (1906). They show the typical fauvist characteristics of raw color (often squeezed onto the canvas directly from the tube), choppy brushstrokes, frenzied composition, and lack of concern for perspective or the realities of a scene.
After 1908, Derain began to experiment with other styles. The influence of Paul Cézanne led him to prefer quieter colors and more controlled compositions. His great Bathers (1908) represented an attempt to combine the innovations of previous painters, such as Claude Monet and Cézanne, in a single all-encompassing synthesis. In 1910, Derain produced highly geometric, cubist-influenced works such as The Old Bridge at Cagnes. His late work, after 1912, showed the influence of many styles-including classical French art and African sculpture-and tended to become increasingly traditional and derivative, characterized by muted color and fussily elaborated technique. Derain also designed woodcut book illustrations and, in 1919, he designed set decorations for Sergey Diaghilev's Ballets Russes.
Head of a Young Model (1926) Portrait of a Young Girl in Black (1914)
— Cadaques — Landscape Cassis — St. Paul's from the Thames (1907) — Woman with Blouse — Paul — Bathers — The Bacchic Dancer (1906) — Turning Road — London Bridge (1906) — Pool of London
Born on 10 June 1859: James Guthrie,
Scottish painter who died on 06 September 1930.
— He originally enrolled at Glasgow University to study law but in 1877 his father, a member of the Scottish clergy, allowed him to train as a painter under James Drummond [1816–1877]. In 1878 Guthrie began work in John Pettie’s studio in London where he was encouraged to produce academic history and genre paintings. Every summer from 1878 to 1881, however, Guthrie returned to Scotland to paint landscapes alongside Joseph Crawhall and E. A. Walton. He was influenced by the work of Jean-François Millet and the Barbizon school and in the spring of 1882 completed his first major realist painting, Funeral Service in the Highlands.
Statesmen of World War I (includes the Maharaja of Bikaner; Sir Robert Laird Borden; Arthur James Balfour, 1st Earl of Balfour; Andrew Bonar Law; Edward Patrick Morris, Baron Morris; Horatio Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener of Khartoum; Sir Jose...) (1930)
Edward Grey, 1st Viscount Grey of Fallodon (1930)
Herbert Henry Asquith, 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith (1930)
Born on 10 June 1857: Edward Henry Potthast,
painter who died on 10 (09?) March 1927.
— Potthast, son of a German cabinet maker, was born in Cincinnati. At a young age he showed a natural inclination toward art, filling the blank pages and margins of his school books with drawings. He was apprenticed at an early age to a lithographer and attended night classes at the McMicken School of Design in Cincinnati. He studied under Fernand Cormon. He interrupted his studies to travel to Europe in 1882 and 1887, visiting Antwerp, Munich, Paris and Barbizon. His early work features the dark tonalities of the Munich school, evident in Dutch Interior (1890). After his move to New York in 1896, Potthast’s palette brightened. There he embarked on what was to become his primary subject: New York beach scenes in which spirited groups of families and children cavort under the strong, even light of the summer sun, as in Sailing Party. Obviously influenced by Impressionism — well established in the US by this time — Potthast applied his pigments with a thickly laden brush, obliterating facial expression but conveying gaiety and warmth through his high-keyed color schemes, energetic brushwork and sharply cropped compositions. Potthast was known as a modest, shy, and diligent person who painted almost every day. A bachelor who enjoyed life, much of Potthast's work focuses on leisure activity, especially that of women and children. As a mature artist, Potthast's fame rests on his beach scenes, completed in the last twenty years of his life. These paintings display the unique synthesis of the US Realist's subject matter and the US Impressionist's painting technique particular to Potthast's large body of work.
The Century July 1896 cover (color lithograph, 51x36cm) Ring Around the Rosy (22x30cm; 289kb) — Beach Scene (31x41cm; 925x1200pix, 107kb) — A Sailing Party (76x102cm; 913x1200pix, 76kb) — The Wave (935x1200pix, 92kb) — Snowy Mountain (952x600pix, 77kb) — The Conference (61x76cm; 911x1200pix, 57kb) — Holiday (63x76cm; 955x1200pix, 65kb)
Born on 10 June 1787: George Henry Harlow,
English painter who died on 04 February 1819.
— After briefly attending Westminster School in London, he trained as a painter, first under Hendrik Frans de Cort, then under Samuel Drummond [1765–1844] and finally with Thomas Lawrence. Although Lawrence was paid a considerable sum to accept Harlow into his studio he did not formally teach him; instead he allowed the young man to copy and occasionally help with his work. After 18 months the two fell out and Harlow left to pursue his own career though the influence of Lawrence’s style was lasting. Harlow made his début at the Royal Academy in 1804 with a portrait of Dr. Thornton and thereafter concentrated on this genre. There is a portrait of the painter James Northcote (1817, 52x40cm; 225x179pix, 6kb) by him. He also attempted history painting, though with less success, partly due to his lack of a proper art education. He produced a number of portraits of actors and actresses, e.g. Charles Mathews (1814 sketch, 16x11cm; 225x154pix, 9kb). In order to make up for his deficient education, in 1818 he went to Italy to study the Old Masters. There he became greatly admired for his technical facility and was befriended by Canova. He caused considerable amazement in Rome by painting a full-size copy of Raphael’s The Transfiguration (1520, 405x278cm; 1177x801pix, 174kb) in only 18 days and was elected an Academician of Merit of the Accademia di S Luca in Rome, a rare honor for an English artist. He died from a throat infection soon after his return to England in 1819. An exhibition of his works was held after his death in Pall Mall, London.
— Self Portrait (1818, copy by John Jackson [1778-1831], sketch 20x14cm; 225x168pix; 6kb) — Two Children (104kb) — Young Girl with a Dove (127kb)
Born on 10 June 1819: Jean-Désiré-Gustave
Courbet, leading French realist painter who died on 31 December
1877. His students included Henri
The son of a family of well off landowners from the west of France, Courbet cultivated a rough ‘peasant painter’ image throughout his life. He claimed to be largely self-taught and insisted that art should take as its subject the lives of ordinary people. In 1855 he held an exhibition of his own work entitled ‘Realism’ which epitomised his style and interests. Imprisoned for his role in the destruction of the great column in the Place Vendôme during the Paris Commune in 1871, he fled to Switzerland in 1873 and died there four years later.
Alexandre Dumas the Younger disliked Courbet so much that he once called him a ‘sonorous and hairy pumpkin’.
In 1860 Courbet opened a short-lived studio school. It was not a great success, he provided horses and bulls as models and refused to teach so as not to compromise anyone’s individuality.
Courbet was an influential and prolific French painter, who, with his compatriots Honore Daumier and Jean Francois Millet, founded the mid-19th-century art movement called realism.
Courbet, a farmer's son, was born in Ornans. He went to Paris about 1840, ostensibly to study law; instead, he taught himself to paint by copying masterpieces in the Louvre, Paris. In 1850 he exhibited The Stone Breakers (1849), a blunt, forthright depiction of laborers repairing a road. In it, Courbet deliberately flouted the precepts of the romantics—champions of emotionally charged exoticism—and of the powerful academics—guardians of the moralizing Beaux-Arts traditions. He further outraged them with his enormous Burial at Ornans (1850), in which a frieze of poorly clad peasants surrounds a yawning grave. Courbet compounded his defiance of convention in another huge painting, The Artist's Studio (1855), which he subtitled A True Allegory Concerning Seven Years of My Artistic Life. In it, Courbet sits painting a landscape center stage, attended by a small boy, a dog, and a voluptuous female nude; at left a listless, bored group studiously ignores him; at right a lively, spirited crowd of his friends admires his work. At the same time he issued a provocative manifesto detailing his social realist credo of art and life. By this time he enjoyed widespread popularity.
By then Courbet's distinctive painting style was fully developed, marked by technical mastery, a bold and limited palette, compositional simplicity, strong and even harshly modeled figures (as in his nudes), and heavy impasto—thick layers of paint—often applied with a palette knife (particularly evident in his landscape and marine paintings).
As radical in politics as he was in painting, Courbet was placed in charge of all art museums under the revolutionary 1871 Commune of Paris and saved the city's collections from looting mobs. Following the fall of the Commune, however, Courbet was accused of allowing the destruction of Napoléon's triumphal column in the Place Vendôme; he was imprisoned and condemned to pay for its reconstruction. In 1873 he fled to Vevey, Switzerland, where he continued to paint until his death.
Courbet was born in Ornans, a small town in the Jura region of eastern France. Situated on the Swiss border, this mountainous area is rich with forests and pasture lands, while Ornans itself nestles in the rocky valley of the River Loue.
Courbet's family had lived in the area for generations. His father, Regis, owned a house in Ornans and a farm and vineyards in nearby Flagey. The family's ambivalent social position, with peasant origins but a new bourgeois identity, made Courbet particularly aware of the class divisions of rural France, and was central to his personal and artistic development. He also fell heir to a deep-rooted affection for the local countryside, which was to figure so largely in his art.
Courbet's art training began at the age of 14, with lessons from "Père" Baud, a former pupil of the Neo-Classical painter Baron Gros. His parents were hoping that Gustave would study law when he moved to the nearby university town of Besanconin 1837, but he swiftly enrolled at the Academy, taking life classes under M. Flajoulot, another exponent of Classicism.
Two years later, Courbet left Besancon for Paris, which in the mid 19th century had become the European center not only for art, but also for radicals and political activists of all kinds. A tall and strikingly handsome young man, the 20-year-old artist was supremely self-confident and gregarious, but his time in Paris started quietly enough. He began studying at the studio of a now obscure painter, M. Steuben, copied widely from the pictures in the Louvre and channeled his energies into seeking success at the Salon.
Courbet's early attempts at recognition were none too successful. Between 1841 and 1847, only three of the 25 works he submitted were passed by the selection committee. And for the first 10 years he sold almost nothing, remaining almost entirely dependent on his family sending him money. During this period he also met Virginia Binet, about whom little is known except that she became his mistress and bore him a son in 1847.
of the works Courbet exhibited at the Salon caught the eye of a Dutch dealer,
who invited him to Holland and commissioned a portrait. In addition, he
had the support of the new friends he had made in Paris. In January 1848
he wrote enthusiastically to his parents that he was very close to making
a breakthrough. Influential people, he assured them, were impressed by his
work and were forming a new school, with him at the head.
Courbet's Realist friends came from the circle which gathered at the Brasserie Andler (or the "Temple of Realism" as it was soon to be nicknamed). Among them were the poet Charles Baudelaire, Pierre Proudhon, and the anarchist; Jules Champfleury, the Realist author and critic; and his cousin and childhood friend Max Buchon.
It was at the Brasserie that the term "Realism" was first coined to describe not only a style of art and literature which presented life as it was, but also a philosophy committed to contemporary social issues. The Brasserie Andler was just down the road from Courbet's studio, and he was often to be seen in the crowed cafe. His larger-than-life personality soon made him the center of the animated discussions which went on there nightly. He preserved his provincial Jura accent and smoked old-fashioned pipes; he was a great eater, a great drinker and above all a great talker. But he had adopted his role of semi-literate peasant for a reason - both to distance himself from the bourgeois world of Paris and to gain acceptance in avant-garde society. It also concealed an inner loneliness. He later wrote: "Behind this laughing mask of mine which you know, I conceal grief and bitterness, and a sadness which clings to my heart like a vampire. In the society in which we live, it doesn't take much to reach the void".
In February 1848 that society was violently shaken, when rioting broke out on the streets of Paris. Louis Philippe abdicated and a provisional Republican government took control. Courbet sided with the popular insurrection, although he took little part in the fighting. In the uneasy political atmosphere, the Salon still opened, but this time without a selection committee. Courbet, who had suffered so many rejections in the past, now had ten works displayed.
^ Although the Second Republic survived for less than four years until Louis-Napoléon's coup d'état, Courbet's name was made. His Salon entries of 1848 were greeted enthusiastically by the critics and the following year his large painting After Dinner at Ornans won a gold medal and was purchased by the government. The medal was particularly important, since it exempted Courbet from the selection procedure at future Salons.
The timing of this privilege was most fortuitous, as the storm of protest against the Realist movement was about to break. Probably on the advice of Champfleury, Courbet had been steadily abandoning his early Romantic subject-matter in favor of scenes of his beloved Ornans - which he visited regularly - containing portraits of his family, friends and neighbors. The most striking example of this was Burial at Ornans which went on show at the 1850-1851 Salon. Courbet had embarked on this huge painting in the summer of 1849, with virtually everyone in the district clamoring to be included. The result was a vast, frieze-like composition, designed to catch the eye. The critics hated it. It was too big; the figures were too ugly; the beadles looked drunk; it was too individual. From now on every picture Courbet exhibited provoked a furor.
Not all the hostility which Courbet aroused can be attributed to purely artistic factors, however. In the aftermath of the Revolution, pictures of unidealized and uncompromising peasants, portrayed on a heroic scale, must have seemed deeply threatening to the new regime and its supporters. These fears were increased by friends such as Proudhon, who interpreted the works as political statements in a way that the artist had probably never intended.
Courbet did not bother to deny such claims. He was rarely averse to provoking those in authority and took great pleasure in the vicarious radicalism of his reputation. So in 1853, when the government offered him an olive branch, Courbet was swift to rebuff it. This attempt at appeasement came when the Comte de Nieuwerkerke, the Director of Fine Arts, proposed to Courbet that he should produce a major painting for the forthcoming World Exhibition, provided only that he submit a sketch in advance. Courbet rejected the overture indignantly, as a breach of his intellectual liberty. Needless to say, three of his most significant contributions to the exhibition were eventually rejected. The artist was disappointed, but not disheartened. And in 1855, in an unprecedented show of artistic independence, he staged his own one-man exhibition alongside the official displays.
The show was advertised under the banner of REALISM and contained a representative selection of Courbet's work dating back to the early 1840's. The centerpiece was his most original and ambitious canvas, The Painter's Studio - a monumental depiction of the artist's studio, peopled with a mixture of close friends and symbolic figures.
This private exhibition marked a watershed in Courbet's life, separating
him from many of his most formative influences. Proudhon had been jailed
and Buchon exiled for their activities during the Revolution, while Champfleury
gradually dissociated himself from his friend's socialist leanings. There
were upheavals in Courbet's personal life, too. His longstanding mistress,
Virginia Binet, left him in the early 1850s, taking their young son with
her. Courbet was surprisingly philosophical about this, writing to a friend
that his art was keeping him busy and that in any case a married man was
Increasing recognition outside Paris made Courbet less reliant on success at the Salon and he traveled extensively after 1855. In Frankfurt, he was treated as a celebrity, with the local Academy placing a studio at his disposal. In Trouville, on the Normandy coast, he met up with James Whistler and plied a profitable trade in seascapes and portraits of the local beauties; in Etretat he painted with the youthful Monet. He exhibited in Germany, Holland, Belgium and England, and decorations were showered on him.
Undoubtedly, part of the reason that Courbet traveled so widely during the late 1850s and 1860s was to enjoy such accolades, but it was also partly to distance himself from a government that he still believed was hostile to him. When he was finally offered the Légion d'Honneur in 1870, on the eve of the Franco-Prussian War, it was already too late. Courbet declined the decoration grandly, as an example of state interference in art.
The gesture was remembered when the government fell, and Courbet was elected chairman of the republican Arts Commission. The following year, he narrowly missed election to the National Assembly, but was accepted as a counselor, which in turn made him a member of the Commune. Tenure of these posts implicated Courbet in the destruction of the column in the Place Vendôme, a monument to Napoléon's victories, and when the Commune failed, he was arrested and condemned to six months' imprisonment and a fine of 500 francs.
^ Courbet began his sentence at Sainte-Pélagie prison in September 1871. But illness cut short his stay, and he soon was removed to a clinic at Neuilly. Misfortune dogged him: his son died in 1872, and throughout the following winter Courbet was plagued with rheumatism and liver problems. Worse was to follow. In May 1873, the new government ordered him to pay for the reconstruction of the Vendome Column. The cost of this - later confirmed at over 300'000 francs - was prohibitive, and Courbet was obliged to flee from France. He chose Switzerland, where he felt at home among the French-speaking community and the familiar Jura mountains. The exiled artist settled at La Tour de Peilz, where he remained in touch with French dissidents and - despite heavy drinking - was able to continue painting. He never gave up hope of returning to France, but the chance of a reprieve never came. Courbet contracted dropsy and died on the last day of 1877.
In a letter written to a friend in 1850, Gustave Courbet announced that "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." These words shed considerable light on Courbet's art and not just because Courbet's subjects aren't always the predictable, socially acceptable ones. There's something direct and even savage (if by that we mean unconventional) in the way Courbet attacks the canvas: in the way he sponges or scrapes the paint, juxtaposes areas that are more or less realistically handled, and frames or arranges figures and objects in unexpected ways.
The risk factor in Courbet's work is, aesthetically speaking, very high. And the high-wire excitement of all those risks being taken all at once was a part a big part of what held us in the Courbet retrospective that was at the Brooklyn Museum earlier this winter [written in 1989]. It was exciting to try to figure out how Courbet achieved some of his effects how he worked the paint to get those textures of water or snow; how he orchestrated his colors to create those mysteriously beautiful flesh tones or those lowering gray-day-at-the-beach skies. And what pulled us deeper and deeper into the work was the extent to which, more times in paint than we would imagine, the gambles panned out, and the crazy handling, the odd perspectives, the idiosyncratic color combinations coalesced into masterpiece-level paintings. There were many, many points in the show where Courbet seemed to be telling us, "To hell with convention." Still, the Brooklyn retrospective was one of the most totally civilized art experiences that we've had in New York in a very long time. Courbet challenges and defies our expectations; but he does so in the name of preservation and continuation. The approach to painting is radical; but in the sense that Courbet is trying to find new ways to attain the heights he recognizes in Rembrandt and Chardin conservative, too.
In Brooklyn Courbet's paintings were hung intelligently, in thematic groupings that extended their meanings. Despite regrettable absences, there was a sense that the works had been chosen in order to illuminate one another. There was no overkill-there was just enough to take in during a reasonably long visit. This was a show to put alongside the Chardin retrospective held at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts in 1979 and the Watteau retrospective held at the National Gallery in Washington in 1984. Taken together, these shows form a triumvirate that presents French easel painting in all its unbeatable glory. In French painting, paint is emotion, the manipulation of materials is the expression of feelings. Sitting on the bench in the last gallery of the Courbet retrospective, surrounded by the tragic Self-portrait at Sainte Hagie (c. 1872), in which Courbet shows himself in prison following his involvement with the Commune of 1871; by a host of nudes, including the famous study of lesbians, The Sleepers (1866); and by the still lifes of apples, which look back to Chardin and forward to Cézanne surrounded by all of this a museum-goer felt happily overwhelmed, but also happily clear in the head.
Because of the impossibility of obtaining the loan of certain major paintings
that are in France, the Brooklyn show couldn't give a particularly clear
picture of the days in the early 1850s when Courbet, who was in his early
thirties (his dates are 1819-1877), was making his most audacious assaults
on conventional taste. Without the two oversized compositions of the 1850s,
Burial at Ornans (1850) and The
Painter's Studio (1855), and some of the studies of peasant life, The
Stone Breakers (1850) and The Peasants of Flagey Returning from
the Fair (1855) Courbet was made to appear a more private personality
than he obviously actually was. And yet the very absence of The Burial
at Ornans and The Painter's Studio had the effect of highlighting
what many of us already believed, which is that Courbet's greatness is not
really based on a few large, invented figure compositions but on the high
level of originality that he brought to a wide range of subjects, generally
treated in easel-painting sizes.
The Burial at Ornans isn't really topnotch Courbet; the downbeat mood of the story is carried over too much into a pictorial dullness that dark frieze of figures just goes on and on, uninteresting, uneventful. And while The Studio is, area by area, a succession of little masterpieces, it never really adds up to a masterful whole. (The Studio is unfinished.) In the context of the galleries of the Louvre, where The Burial and The Studio hung before their transfer to the Musée d'Orsay, it was quite clear that Delacroix, not Courbet, was the final artist to feel at ease when working on a monumental scale. Tackling a three- or five-meter canvas in The Death of Sardanapalus (1827) and The Massacre at Chios (1823), Delacroix is totally in control his arabesques and twisting rhythms expand to fill the space. Courbet's grasp of composition is more episodic and eccentric; his finest paintings have an effect of strangeness and surprise that's probably irreconcilable with the idea of the wall-sized masterpiece.
^ Courbet painted landscapes, portraits, nudes, and still lifes off and on all through his life. And from the very start of the show, where we see a wall of youthful self-portraits, to the very end, where we see the paintings of heaps of apples, he manages to give each subject a unique, freestanding value. Even when he's working on various versions of a single motif as in the seascapes he avoids formulaic solutions. He certainly, never expects the kinds of techniques or structural ideas that work in a seascape to work in a landscape or a still life. He puts us in touch with the strangely awkward beauty of the landscape where he grew up the Jura plateau in eastern France, through which the Doubs River winds, creating dramatic gorges and waterfalls. And he brings an equally deep but different sensitivity to the misty immensities of the Atlantic Ocean, which he visited as a tourist. Everywhere, one feels his supreme sense of scale, how the relation of tiny boa is to enormous cloud formations in the seascapes is every bit as exact and poetically right as the relation of trees, towns, and rock formations in the paintings of the Jura plateau. Courbet responds as completely to the frozen loneliness of an animal foraging in winter in The Snowy Landscape with Boar (1867) as he does to the little fishing boats at the Cliffs of Etretat, just after a storm.
In a sense, Courbet is a promiscuous artist: he likes to imagine himself in the landscape of childhood, or in the hostile world of winter, or at the seashore. And this promiscuity jibes with the largeness of the personality that we know from the history books of the man who got involved and messed up in political developments around the Commune, and who made dramatic gestures, as when, in anger over the rejection of some paintings from the Universal Exposition of 1855, he opened his own pavilion. But what the public histories don't really tell us is the extent to which the man could be authentic in different situations. That's what the paintings tell us. The bravado of the paint handling resolves into a perfect transparency of expression.
a sa légende, dont il ne faut être qu'à moitié complice. Le réaliste, l'apôtre
du laid", le tombeur de la colonne Vendôme ne sont qu'un des profiles d'une
peinture aussi riche que contradictoire. "Sans idéal ni religion", proclamait-il,
mais avant tout, peintre. Au publiciste Francis Way, il déclare : "je peins
comme un dieu", et cet orgueil, souvent moqué, manifeste dans son goût presque
narcissique de l'autoportrait, est celui d'un homme à l'extraordinaire métier,
dont les ambitions, mêmes confuses, sont toujours sauvées par la réussite
La part, chez Courbet, de l'atavisme familial et géographique est évidente. Le père, mi-hobereau, mi-paysan, un "cudot", synonyme franc-comtois de "chimérique", le grand père maternel, fidèle aux principes de 1789, la mère, prudente et avisée, expliquent beaucoup de la psychologie complexe du peintre. Quant à Ornans et à la vallée de la Loue, le peintre y trouvera une source continue d'inspiration.
Sa vocation s'affirme très tôt. Après des études quelconques au petit séminaire d'Ornans, puis à Besançon où il s'initie à la peinture et pratique la lithographie, il va à Paris, en 1840, pour faire son droit, en vérité pour peindre. Ses débuts sont obscurs; on sait qu'il fréquente plusieurs ateliers en élève libre. Mais, s'il s'échappe au cursus académique, on ne doit assurément pas sous-estimer la formation et la culture du jeune Courbet. Les oeuvres des années 1840-1848, que l'on peut qualifier par leur sujet (Guitarrero, 1845) ou par leur manière (L'homme à la pipe, 1846) de romantique, surprennent par la qualité immédiate du métier, la complexité des influences : italiens, des Venise à Naples, espagnols, nordiques sont les modèles auxquels le peintre se réfère. Dans Courbet au chien noir, 1842, l'autorité de la mise en page, l'élégance du contour enfermant l'animal et son maître, la simplicité de l'effet clair-obscur, la clarté enfin du paysage sont d'un peintre savant qui rend autant d'hommages à Bellini, Titien et même Bronzino. Avec un arsenal narratif réduit à l'extrême, les amants dans la campagne (deux versions) sont d'un lyrisme sans fadeur, immédiatement populaire.
Le peintre s'affirme au salon de 1849. Parmi les sept toiles qu'il envoi, si l'homme à la ceinture de cuir , "étude des Vénitiens" comme il est précisé, reste dans la lignée des autoportraits précédents, l'Après-dîner à Ornans apporte quelque chose de nouveau. Cette réunion d'amis surprend par son format; Courbet oser traiter en grand la scène du genre. Aussi bien, l'influence d'un voyage fait en hollande en 1848 a-t-elle été décisive : "Rembrandt charme les intelligences et il étourdit les imbéciles, Van Ostade, Van Craesbeek me séduisent." Le romancier et critique Champfleury ne s'y trompe pas et égare l'oeuvre "aux grandes assemblées de bourgmestres de Van der Helst". Le rapprochement est à moitié juste (Courbet était plus prés des peintres monochromes que du brillant de Van der Helst), et le tableau trop sombre à mal vieilli, mais il sacrait un peintre original, depuis toujours étranger à l'idéalisme ingresque, désormais libéré du romantisme.
Avec l'Enterrement à Ornans (Salon de 1850-51), objet de scandale et succès à la fois, la légende de Courbet est formée. Rassemblement de portraits (Les habitants d'Ornans, du maire au fossoyeur, ont posés), l'Enterrement sidère par sa vérité autant que par son format. Un épisode banal est traité avec le même soin et la même attention psychologique que le Sacre de Napoléon par David. Les réaction sont violentes : " Est-il possible de peindre des gens si affreux " demandent des bourgeois dans un dessin de Daumier. " Accès farouche de misanthropie ", " ignobles caricatures inspirant le dégoût et provocant le rire ", telles sont les appréciations de la critique.
Faire vrai ce n'est rien pour être réaliste, c'est faire laid qu'il faut, rime Théodore de Banville. Le contresens que l'oeuvre de Courbet n'allait cesser de susciter est là. En fait, l'Enterrement est une page d'humanité où Courbet, avec une attention scrupuleuse et la sympathie d'un " pays ", montre comment un village réagit devant la mort. " Est-ce la faute du peintre, dit Champfleury, si les intérêts matériels, les égoïsmes sordides, la mesquinerie de province clouent leurs griffes sur la figure, éteignent ces yeux, plissent les fronts? " Mais Courbet n'a oublié ni l'émotion ni l'affliction vraie, et sa comédie humaine est aussi complexe que celle de Balzac. la leçon satirique, le jugement moral sont second; le réel, en fait, est magnifié, devient vérité générale grâce à la largeur du traitement, à la science du groupement désordonné des assistants, au lyrisme de la couleur : Vélasquez et Hals peuvent être évoqués.
Désormais, Courbet est sacré par la critique comme le chef des réaliste aux côtés de Champfleury. Les provocations du personnage, les propos tenus à la brasserie Andler, lieu de réunion du cénacle, expliquent la célébrité tapageuse qui va être celle de l'école. Mais il faut n'accepter qu'avec prudence les appellations. Lorsque Courbet, à l'Exposition internationale de 1855, décidera hardiment d'organiser une présentation séparée de ses oeuvres, il s'expliquera dans la préface de son catalogue : " Le titre de réaliste m'a été imposé comme on a imposé aux hommes de 1830 le titre de romantiques. Etre a même de traduire les moeurs, les idées, l'aspect de mon époque, selon mon appréciation, en un mot faire de l'art vivant, tel est mon but. " Aussi bien Courbet voit-il avant de penser. Les casseurs de pierres (Salon de 1850-51, détruit à Dresde durant la 2ème guerre mondiale) peinture socialiste selon Proudhon, sont nés d'abord d'une rencontre, d'une vision de misère sur une route: " C'est sans le vouloir, simplement en peignant ce que j'ai vu, que j'ai soulevé ce qu'ils appellent la question sociale."
Un "oeil", avait dit Ingres de Courbet, et il semble bien que le goût de peindre soit premier. Les demoiselles de village (Salon de 1852) sont bien un sujet social, l'aumône des soeurs du peintre à une gardeuse de vaches, mais l'essentiel pour l'artiste était un problème pictural, celui d'intégrer des personnages dans un site. De même le tableau des Baigneuses , cravaché dit-on par Napoléon III au Salon de 1853, est il presque détaché du sujet. Quoi de plus académique qu'un nu dans un paysage ? "La vulgarité des formes ne serait rien, c'est la vulgarité et l'inutilité de la pensée qui sont abominables", note Delacroix dans son Journal, rejoignant Ingres et annonçant Baudelaire dans une paradoxale mais compréhensible alliance contre une peinture aussi désintéressée et "antisurnaturaliste". Les baigneuses furent achetées par Alfred Bruyas, collectionneur sensible et distingué, que tout aurait dû séparer de Courbet, si ce n'est l'amour de la peinture; la rencontre, admirable tableau de plein air, moqué pour le narcissisme du sujet, est un hommage mérité à un véritable amateur.
En même temps, sous l'influence de Proudhon, comme poussé par sa propre
réputation, Courbet se convainc qu'il est un peintre socialiste et participe
à la rédaction du Principe de l'art et de sa destination sociale
(1865), qui propose une nouvelle lecture de son oeuvre : ainsi la nudité
déformée des Baigneuses devient un avertissement des dangers de
la vie paresseuse et débilitante de la bourgeoisie; les Demoiselles
des bords de la Seine (Salon de 1857) sont une image de l'univers triste
L'Atelier du peintre, "allégorie réelle, intérieur de mon atelier, déterminant sept années de ma vie artistique" (exposition de 1855) est une ambitieuse synthèse de l'idéologie de Courbet. L'échec relatif vient de ce que la transcription symbolique reste confuse et que on est surtout sensible à des "morceaux" , comme celui de la femme nue qui regarde Courbet peindre. Le retour de la conférence (Salon de 1863, détruit) lourde sotie qui montre des curés en goguette après un bon dîner, est trop picaresque pour être réaliste : la volonté de satire empêche ici la réussite franche.
Paradoxalement, Courbet triomphe avec les tableaux sans "problèmes".La femme au perroquet (New York, Metropolitan Muséum) appelle pour Jules Antoine Castagnary la comparaison avec Titien, tandis que les troublantes Dormeuse (1866) et l'origine du monde savent séduire l'ambassadeur de Turquie Khalil Bey, acheteur du Bain turc d'Ingres. Les grandes composions comme le Combat des cerfs, la Remise des chevreuils (1861 et 1866), l'Hallali du cerf (1867) valent à Courbet ses francs succès populaires. Il y montre tout son savoir de la nature et des animaux, confirmé par des séjours dans les forêts germaniques, avec une verve et une facilité quelquefois un peu lâchées.
Le peintre à succès mérite alors la Légion d'honneur, que le socialiste olympien n'hésite pas à refuser. La guerre de 1870, les événements de la Commune vont bouleverser le cours de la vie de Courbet. Président de la commission nommée par les artistes pour veiller à la conservation des musées et richesses d'art, il joue le rôle d'un directeur des beaux-arts. Il se signale avec la pétition du 14 septembre 1870 demandant le déboulonnage de la colonne Vendôme, "monument dénué de toute valeur artistique, tendant à perpétuer par son expression les idées de guerre et de conquêtes que réprouve le sentiment d'une nation républicaine"; il est présent lorsqu'on abat la Colonne le 16 mai 1871. Après l'effondrement de la Commune, Courbet le "révolutionnaire" est arrêter et traduit en conseil de guerre. Condamné à six mois de prison, il purge sa peine à Sainte-Pélagie. Là, le peintre donne certains de ses tableaux les plus savoureux de texture, en particulier une série de natures mortes aux fruits, ou peint de mémoire marines et paysages avec un dépouillement et un amour qui émeuvent.
La suite des sa vie est marquée par le souci de ses dettes; on le refuse au salon de mai 1873; lorsque l'Assemblée adopte le projet de reconstruction de la colonne Vendôme et que Courbet est rendu solidaire des frais, il doit s'exiler en Suisse. La vente judiciaire de 1877 l'accable, et il meurt le 31 décembre. "Ne le plaignons pas, il à traversé les grands courants, il a entendu battre comme des coups de canon le coeur d'un peuple et il a fini en pleine nature, au milieu des arbres", dira en guise d'oraison funèbre cet autre réfractaire que fut Jules Vallès.
Landscape in the Jura (1864, 72x91cm) [image zoomable to near original size]
Le bois aux biches
Les Falaises d'Étretat
Bords de la Seine
Enterrement à Ornans
Cribleuses de blé
Le studio de l'artiste
Bonjour, Monsieur Courbet
Courbet au Chien Noir
Self~Portrait (you may want to increase the brightness of your screen for this one) [image zoomable to near original size]
Self-Portrait (Man with a Pipe) (1849)
Portrait of the Artist's Sister (32x25cm)
The Young Ladies of the Village (1852) The Sleeping Spinner (1853)
The Fox in the Snow (1860)
Allegory of Painting
Beach Scene, (1874, 38x55cm) _ Painted later in life than many of his beach scenes, this picture of the shores of Lake Geneva was made when Courbet was in exile in Switzerland. Its composition refers back to the ‘sea landscapes’ he painted in the 1860s, although here one small figure appears on the shore. Courbet uses minimal colors to convey the mood and the natural elements, while the style of this work is more refined than his previous paintings of similar subjects.
Low Tide at Trouville, (1865, 60x73cm) _ This is a particularly harmonious painting in terms of color and mood. It was painted during Courbet’s 1865 trip to Trouville, and shows the artist experimenting with ways of creating depth on a two-dimensional surface. The salmon-pink horizon constitutes over a third of the painting, dissolving into softer pinks, grey and blue for the sky and to browner tones for the beach. At this stage in his career Courbet was very much influenced by Whistler, whose seascapes show great attention to the blending of color.
The Wave (1871, 46x55cm) _ Although Courbet would have observed waves breaking, it is obviously inconceivable for any painter to sketch or paint one particular wave. Its motion, although repetitive, is never identical, and (until the development of snapshot photography) impossible to capture. A wave represents one moment in time – here in thickly laid-on paint, the crest of the wave curls over and crashes towards the front of the painting. This creates a sense of immediacy for the viewer, as if we are witnessing the wave spilling towards us.
L'Eternité (1865, 65x79cm) _ This intense and melancholy painting is painted over a dark ground (or underlayer) which explains its somber tone; as Courbet himself said: ‘Nature without the sun is also dark and black. I do as the light does, I illuminate the parts that project and the picture is done’. The title draws our attention to the vast expanse of sea and sky, its timelessness and our own relative inconsequence.
Pêcheur au bord de la Loue
— Portrait of the Artist, called "The Wounded Man" (1854) — The Cellist, Self-Portrait (1847) — Portrait of the Artist (Man with a Pipe) (1849) — A Burial at Ornans (1850) — The Bathers (1853) — The Sleeping Spinner (1853) — The Meeting, or "Bonjour Monsieur Courbet" (1854) — The Painter's Studio; A Real Allegory (1855) — The Young Ladies on the Banks of the Seine (Summer) (1857) — The Oak at Flagey (The Oak of Vercingétorix) (1864) — The Source of the Loue (1864) — Portrait of Jo, the Beautiful Irish Girl (1865) — Seacoast (1865) — The Sleepers, or Sleep (1866) — A Thicket of Deer at the Stream of Plaisir-Fontaine (1866) — Woman with a Parrot (1866) — L'Origine du monde (1866) — Count de Choiseul's Greyhounds (1866) — The Woman in the Waves (1866) — The Source (1868) — The Cliff at Etretat after the Storm (1869) — The Stormy Sea (or The Wave) (1869) — Still Life with Apples and Pomegranate (1872) — Still Life: Fruit (1872) — The Trout (1872)
— 133 images at Webshots