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Gustav Courbet

Gustav Courbet

(1819 - 1877)
Born: Ornans, France
Style: Realism
Famous Works:
  • The Desperate Man (Self-Portrait) (1843-45)
  • Bonjour, Monsieur Courbet (1854)
  • Studio of a Painter: A Real Allegory Summarizing My Seven Years as an Artist (1854-55)
Gustave Courbet was one of the first artists to portray realism in his paintings, displaying a fearlessness of previously neglected subjects. He chose not to censor his portraits in acquiescence to the church or established hierarchy. Instead, the paintings of Courbet were uninhibited and honest. This new approach was in part inspired by the mastery of outdoor landscape painting of his elder colleague Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot. However, in Courbet's work there was the added desire to break from the traditions of religious and academic subjects. This was a new, anti-intellectual kind of artwork called Realism. In fact Courbet coined this term in a one-man show by the same title in Paris in 1855. Courbet did not desire to portray the calculated beauty of the paintings to which bourgeois society was accustomed. Intentionally disregarding what was considered pleasing, his compositions were seemingly random and therefore unpretentious. He did not use garish colors or other catchy affects of painters before him. By stripping his paintings of all these conventional methods, he was signaling the viewers to reestablish what was sincere and was true. No longer were there reenactments of classical myths, or references to history. Courbet's paintings were simply about man in the landscape. His work played a major role in the career of Édouard Manet, Camille Pissarro, and Claude Monet, as well as many other Impressionists.
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