Makenzie Elliott Gustave Courbet Gustave Courbet was one of the

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Gustave Courbet
Gustave Courbet was one of the first Realist artists. He painted landscapes,
still lives and figurative compositions. His works depicted the real life of the 1800’s
showing peasants and workers, as well as things considered to be vulgar. Naked
women and paintings of prostitutes. He painted an equal amount of landscapes and
people, each with it’s own story.
Courbet had three sisters; Zoe, Zelie and Juliette, they were his first models
for painting. He also painted a portrait of his father, Regis Courbet. I have yet to find
a painting of his mother Sylvie. Gustave was born in Ornans, France. His family was
farmers, dedicated to their work. His parents wanted him to be a lawyer, so in 1839
Gustave left for Paris, France. While working at the studio of Steuben and Hesse he
decided that being a lawyer wasn’t what he really wanted and he left and started
studying paintings of Spanish and French art
masters. He studied their works and painted
Desperate Man by Gustave
Courbet 1843
copies of them.
Gustave’s first real paintings
were self-portraits. His first paintings
did not portray the Realist views that
we know. They were more in the
category of romanticism then later he
developed his Realist style. These
paintings include, Self-Portrait with Black Dog, Desperate Man, Lovers in the
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Countryside, The sculptor, The Wounded Man, etc…. Each of these was painted in the
1840’s, several of which he tried to get passed and displayed at the Salon. The Salon
was the art regulator of the time. It passed art off and allowed it to be displayed
within. Getting your painting approved by the Salon was a huge deal. The Salon
denied all of the first paintings that Gustave submitted but he continued to paint.
Later on in 1846 Gustave made is way over to the Netherlands. While there,
he discovered that he really wanted to paint things that were realistic and that
would really show the life around them. So, Gustave painted After Dinner at Ornans
and it was accepted by the Salon in 1849. The Salon gave Gustave a Gold Medal for
his painting, which basically meant that he could submit any of his new painting
without having to go through a jury process again. This painting really gave Gustave
the boost he needed.
The next great painting that he accomplished was the Stone-Breakers finished
in 1849. This painting was known as “the first of his
great works”. This is where Gustave’s Realist style
started to come out.
He was inspired
randomly while
looking at the
roadside at these two
men working on the
railroad. He was so
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inspired he asked them to come to his studio the next day.
Gustave was a Rebel and lead the Realism movement. He was antigovernment and was causing real problems. In 1850 Gustave painted A Burial at
Ornans. It was 10 feet by 22 feet. The size and concept of the piece really stirred up
people’s emotions. They got upset, saying that it is too magnificent to be just for a
common man. Something that size should be only for religious leaders or royalty.
The piece also symbolized the death of the Romantic era.
Gustave Courbet was becoming more popular and people were following his
rage towards the government. He expressed through his paintings how things really
were in the world with how the government was being run. In the 1850’s he painted
many figurative pieces using his friends and common people as his models. Some of
his works during this time include Wrestlers, Bathers, The Sleeping Spinner, and the
Wheat Sifters. He submitted 15 painting 5 years later to the Salon and only three
were rejected. The ones left out include the biggest, the Burial at Ornans, and The
Artist Studio. The Art Studio was especially popular and despised at the same time. It
is also a large painting like the Burial, but the painting
shows both sides the situation Gustave found himself
The Artist Studio
in. On the right were his
admirers and friends, and
on the left were the
opposed and the very
things he painted, the
government and the
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ugliness of the world, the poor and the rich. The man with the dogs on the left side of
the painting was added later on in its life. It is Napoleon the Third; I will describe the
connection soon.
In the 1060’s Gustave started to paint more erotic scenes. Naked prostitutes
and women. He also started to paint a great amount of hunting scenes. Some of his
famous works that were more erotic are The Origin of the World, this painting was of
woman gentiles and wasn’t allowed to be display until 1988. The Sleep was also very
popular. It depicts two women sleeping in bed. By this time Gustave was very well
known and very popular. He created the “Federation of Artists” which allowed them
to expand art without limitations. Around the same time Napoleon the Third was
more powerful. He had appointed a Prime Minister and offered the Legion of Honor
to Gustave in 1870. He refused it and only became more popular with the Rebels of
the regime. This is where the importance of Napoleon the Third on the painting of
The Artist Studio. Gustave put Napoleon on the left side of the painting in order to
show how he is part of the poverty.
In 1871 the Paris Commune was taking control. The Paris Commune was like
the law back then. They appointed Gustave Courbet in charge of all the art museums.
He was to protect and preserve the works from theft. That same year Gustave went
and discuss with the Paris Commune about the demolishing of the Vendome
Column. In Courbet’s view he saw the Column as showing a past that wasn’t
working. He pretty much thought it was insulting to everyone to keep it up. The
Paris Commune denied the request but later on that year Courbet and others went
and took it down anyway because they left it to vote, probably without the notice of
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the Commune. Because it was his idea, Gustave got blamed for the whole thing and
was sentenced to 6 months in prison with a $500 francs fine.
While in prison Gustave painted Self-Portrait at Ste. –Pelagie. This is a
painting of his sitting in his cell facing the outside. When he was released from the
prison the new government decided to rebuild the Vendome Column. Because
Gustave was blamed for the whole ordeal they decided to add a little more
punishment. He had to pay for the whole reconstruction of the Vendome Column.
The total amount would come to $323,091 francs and 68 cents.
Because the amount of money was excessive, the government decided to be
nice and let him pay off the balance over his life.
He was to pay 10,000 francs a year for the next 33
The Pont de Fleurie
years. It would take him until he was 91
years old to pay them back completely.
Gustave saw the problem and quickly
fled to Switzerland in exile. He lived out
the rest of his life in Switzerland and
influenced many great artists. While in
exile he painted many pieces about trout. It was meant to be a self-portrait,
depicting how he felt at the time of his exile, caught and bleeding from the gills. He
painted some more landscape pieces in Switzerland like The Pont de Fleurie,
Switzerland in 1873.
Courbet died on May 4th, 1877 from liver disease caused by excessive
drinking, he was only 58. He was and has always been admired by aspiring artists.
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His Help in the movement of Realism in art has been substantial to the development
of art and their styles today.
I really enjoyed studying Gustave Courbet. He was passionate about his
beliefs in the government and I could really tell how much his freedom really meant
to him. He is a very talented artist. One of my favorite works is his Desperate Man
piece. Though it is in the Romanticism style he was really creative with his
character. Another one of my favorites is the Artist Studio. I enjoyed how he showed
both sides of his life and he really captured the characters. If you look closely you
can see the expression on their faces. Gustave was very bold. When he reached his
erotic phase in the 1860’s he really didn’t hold back at all even though the age at
which he was presenting his work was obviously not ready for that kind of style.
Gustave was a genius of the art world. Nothing is better than a Rebel artist.
Some of the best works have come from the most opinionated people. The only thing
I wish I could have found was something about his love life. I couldn’t find any trace
of a wife or even a lover. You can really see how his work has changed with his life
and how he is feeling at the time. In his earlier pieces he is not as messy and really
stays in the lines where as in his later pieces I see a little bit rougher edges
especially in his landscapes. During his exile he depicted himself as a fish bleeding
from the gills because that Is how he truly felt at the time.
I think Gustave is inspirational. He doesn’t follow the rules and he can
express himself because he wanted to make a difference and he accomplished just
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Works Cited
Gustave Courbett. N.d.
www.metmuseum.orgWeb. 23 Oct 2012.
Courbet, Gustave . N.d.
www.gustavecourbet.orgWeb. 23 Oct 2012.