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The Life and Works of Gustave Courbet Essay

Gustave Courbet was one of the pioneers of the Realist art movement in France during the 1800s. Courbet gained fame and the interest of the art-loving public when he defied the dominant art style at that time which was romanticism. Instead, he invested in showcasing the beauty of daily through his exquisite paintings. The Early Life of the Artist On June 10, 1819 in Oman, France, a healthy baby boy was added to the wealthy family of “Eleonor-Regis, a prosperous farmer, and Sylvie Courbet.

” The young Courbet during his early life attended a series of academic institutions which included the “College Royal and the College of Fine Arts at Besancon. Then in 1841, he went to Paris to pursue a law degree (Encyclopedia Britannica Online). Young Adult Life and Artistic Beginnings However, he focused more on learning about the masterpieces produced by talented painters which were exhibited at the Louvre museum. Because of this enthusiasm with studying paintings, Courbet and his father developed a special bond wherein his father encouraged him to be what he wants to be instead of taking a path that is not meant for him.

Through the moral and financial support he received from his family, Courbet was able to concentrate on honing his artistic skills. More so, by mere copying the works of “Diego Velazquez, Jose de Ribera, and other 17th-century Spanish painters,” he was able to gain technical proficiency in painting (Encyclopedia Britannica Online). In the 1840s, he started to make paintings that were highly influenced by the romantic style. But by the year 1844, he began to explore a more avant-garde style which was not initially embraced by the people (Discoverfrance. net).

This became evident in one of his early work which was a self-portrait called Courbet with a Black Dog. This painting was included at the Salon, “annual public exhibition of art in France sponsored by the Academie des Beaux-Arts. ” In the succeeding years, this painting was rejected three times by the Salon jury due to the “unconventional style and bold subject matter” (Encyclopedia Britannica Online). Historical Information As Courbet became exceptional in his field, the Revolution of 1848 took place in the Second Republic that resulted to a “new liberal spirit that, for a brief while, greatly affected the arts.

” More so, this period was the start of the war between the Germans and the French in 1870 that brought forth the establishment of the Third Republic. By 1871, “the republican Paris Commune” was ordered to deal with forces of the Germans as well as the Army of Versailles who were loyal to Napoleon III. But in the end, the Commune proposed a truce with the Germans in exchange for them to be evaluated as dishonorable. During this period, Courbet was the head of the artist’s federation whose primary duty was to open museums and “organize the annual Salon.

” Instead of doing his mandated tasks, he opted to participate in the “revolutionary activities of the Commune” (Encyclopedia Britannica Online). Historical Information on the Style During the highlight of Courbet, Realism was the emerging art movement. In fact he was one of the leaders of this art style alongside other writers and thinkers. During the development of Realism, Courbet became fixated with “traditions and customs of his native province, the Franche-Comte, and of his birthplace, Ornans, one of the most beautiful towns in the province” (Encyclopedia Britannica Online).

His maturity in creating masterpieces was seen in After Dinner in Ornans, The Burial at Ornans and The Stone Breakers which were all regarded as remarkable works of art because of their “large scale and volumetric solidity” (Discoverfrance. net). Most of these paintings were created when he went back to his hometown to visit his family. Also, he dwelled on the realistic depiction of the peasant life instead of the predominant upper-class lifestyle (Pioch).

Because of his defiance to the existing status quo in the world of art, he was able provide something different. He portrayed the exterior and plight of the peasants more boldly which have garnered mixed reactions (Encyclopedia Britannica Online). Highlights of Artistic Career Courbet produced many exquisite works during his lifetime that made him a household name in the realm of Realism. The Burial at Ornans is a large canvas painting that depicted a peasant funeral. This life-size portrait has an estimate of 40 huge human figures (Encyclopedia Britannica Online).

Meanwhile, the After Dinner in Ornans painting showcased “an intimate genre scene on the monumental scale formerly reserved for paintings of historical and mythological subjects” (Discoverfrance. net). In the Painter’s Studio, Courbet showed an allegory of his life which displayed a wide array of personalities that he have met. The characters in the painting where shown in different ages and their various economic status in the society. Moreover, The Stone Breakers is the painting that really embodied Courbet’s goal of defying the norm. This visual art was finished in 1849.

It centered on two regular peasant workers. “Courbet painted without any apparent sentiment; instead, he let the image of the two men, one too young for hard labor and the other too old, express the feelings of hardship and exhaustion that he was trying to portray. ” Through this graphical representation, Courbet was able to empathize with the predicament of the peasants by illustrating them with full dignity but at the same time he also showed his repugnance for the privileged (Hopf, Kogan and Brown). Works Cited Hopf, Courtney, Kogan, Leslie and Brown, Rachel.

“Gustave Courbet. ” May 2001. Mount Holyoke College. 23 March 20 <http://www. mtholyoke. edu/courses/rschwart/hist255-s01/boheme/welcome. html> “Gustave Courbet. ” 1999. Discoverfrance. net. 23 March 20 <http://www. discoverfrance. net/France/Art/Courbet/Courbet. shtml> “Gustave Courbet. ” 2009. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. 23 March 2009 <http://www. britannica. com/EBchecked/topic/140530/Gustave-Courbet>. Pioch, Nicholas. “Courbet, Gustave. ” 19 Dec 2003. WebMuseum. 23 March 2009 <http://www. ibiblio. org/wm/paint/auth/courbet/>

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