Paintings of Courbet and Monet

A Burial At Ornans

About forty peasant mourners are depicted in this painting by the French painter Gustave Courbet. This work was done between 1849 and1850, around the period of the 1848 French revolution where art became oppositional to the idealistic portrayals of society. Courbet communicated a very insightful reasoning that somewhat introduced his style: “Since art is ideal, anything that is not art must be what is real”. Courbet was a realist painter ; his principles were based on Realism. He emphasizes the m2odern and the current, depicting aspects of everyday life.

Thus, he rejected the principles of the neoclassicist and romantic artists who were inspired by idealism and the past, and with the constant need to return to it; a characteristic of bourgeois art. We can see very clearly that the painting illustrates one of the many aspects of daily life: a burial. It was common for the officials of the Church to attend such religious ceremonies because there was church authority at the time.

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But, is the painting really religious? The artist is against idealized bourgeois art! Thus, this painting is not really religious, and it frames Courbet as an avant-garde and modern artist.

I don’t consider the theme of this painting religious. It seems religious if the viewer looks at the general composition of the painting that includes three main parts: the cross, the members of the clergy, and the mourning people. However, if one looks closely, he/she sees expressionless faces looking in all directions without even focusing on one point, which should obviously be the grave.

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The grave, which should be the center of attention, is ignored by the people who at this moment were definitely thinking of something else.

Moreover, the Church officials have red cheeks and ball-shaped noses, making the viewer assume that they are drunk or greedy. It is very offensive to portray spiritual leaders in such a satirical manner. Therefore, Courbet is undermining Church authority. Furthermore, the cross that is held by a man appears disconnected from the crowd, standing alone up on the hill. So, the separation of the cross from the crowd questions the religious aspect of the painting. In addition, the peasants and the clergy form two rectangles. The clergy forms the smaller rectangle, thus the spiritual part of the painting is smaller.

As a result, Courbet goes beyond the general religious feeling about the painting. Hence, “Burial at Ornans” is not considered a religious painting. We infer from the painting that Courbet is an avant-garde and modern artist. Being an avant-garde artist is opposing the existing power institutions by using means such as painting (in Courbet’s case) to communicate the intented message. The avant-garde Courbet alientates himself from existing social and political conventions, and disturbs the acceptable norms of mid 19th century France.

People from this time expected to see an idealized painting, a painting that matches their beliefs: people in harmony with nature, praying in an idealistic manner. Instead, Courbet painted an everyday happening that includes a group of peasants. Moreover, he made a large historical painting having a subject of no significant importance: a burial of an anonymous peasant. His intention was to let art be for art’s sake. In addition, Courbet’s painting was provocative and oppositional to bourgeios norms, questioning the role of art in society. Furthermore, Courbet is a modern artist.

The painting is characterized by the lack of modeling and depth: the people appear almost as solid as a wall. Also, the subjects, especially the peasants, are not clear except for a few faces. “All that is solid melts into air” ! There are many dark features such as the black clothes that blend with each other and with the background, causing this part of the painting to appear unclear and blurry. In addition, there is a lot of contrast between lights and darks in the painting creating a rhythm throughout the whole work, a characteristic of modern painting.

The painting also translates the engagement of Courbet with popular culture since the superimposed subjects are painted in the style of popular woodcuts and carvings. In conclusion, being avant-garde and modern informs us that the artist is against the ruling authorities of his time. Courbet was against Church authority that was in a leading position. He couldn’t but represent the clergy in a satirical way since they represented idealism and traditional norms. “The essence of realism is its negation of the ideal”, Courbet states.

I can see two paintings belonging to different art movements: the first one is done with somewhat rigid brushstrokes, and the second is done using very loose brushstrokes. The first painting “Big Pine Tree and Red Earth” is painted by Paul Cezanne between 1890 and 1895 in the Post Impressionist period. The second painting is done in a period that precedes Post Impressionism.

Impression Sunrise

Claude Monet, the Impressionist, did this work entitled “Impression Sunrise” in 1872. Knowing that the two paintings belong to different and consecutive art movements, they can share the same features but they are also different in many attributes. As seen very clearly, the two paintings have almost the same texture in the way the two artists apply their brushstrokes. Short brushstrokes were used, a characteristic of both Impressionism and Post Impressionism. In addition, both paintings do not show us the true form of the depicted subjects.

In Cezanne’s painting, the leaves are painted in a blurry and divisioned manner without them being depicted in their real form. Manet also sort of hides the painted subjects and as well doesn’t give them their real form. After looking closely and after processing some information, the viewer concludes that the objects shown are boats in a harbour. Moreover, both paintings are somewhat abstract: they indicate a departure from reality but are not totally nonrepresentational. The viewer is still able to recognize what is painted such as the tree and the boats.

Furthermore, Monet and Cezanne were both influenced by Japanese art prints that were characterized by “snapshot angles”, which create space within the image. Both paintings have a sense of space. In Cezanne’s painting, everything is revolving around the trunk of the tree, creating a sense of space within a frame. In Monet’s painting, the space is felt more in terms of depth as the artist focuses our attention into the distant sun. So, the two paintings have many similarities although they are different in style.

Cezanne’s and Monet’s painting do have some similarities, but they are different in many ways because of their dissimilar styles. First, the paintings are different in terms of outline. Monet’s subjects have a foggy outline and they disappear into the atmosphere and into the sea. In contrast, Cezanne’s objects have fixed contours, and there is a separation between the atmosphere and the painted subjects. Moreover, one can feel the difference in the masses of the depicted objects. In Monet’s painting, everything loses its mass to become thin without any onsistency. The boats, especially the ones on the viewer’s left, appear as threads woven into each other. In Cezanne’s painting, the objects appear solid and material. The leaves in the foreground are dense, and are painted with massive and overlapping layers that look like facets. Furthermore, the way of portraying lighting is very dissimilar. Cezanne uses gradations of colors across the objects, especially in the leaves. Monet’s painting has shadowy effects, paying attention to the reflection of colors provided by the natural light.

In addition, concerning the painting technique, Cezanne uses large blocks of colors placed closely together, whereas Monet places dabs of colors in smaller quantities throughout his painting. So, the above stated differences show us how Impressionist and Post Impressionist paintings are different in terms of artisitic technique. In conclusion, Cezanne and Monet have different intentions and identities because each artist perceives nature in his own, unique way. This is due to the change in the concepts of art from Impressionism to Post Impressionism. Thus, each artist has his particular subjective view of nature.

Cezanne sees art as “a piece of nature”, as something solid. He says: “When I judge art, I take my painting and put it next to a God made object like a tree or flower. If it clashes, it is not art”. Monet thinks differently. To him, landscape is only an “instantaneous impression”. Thus, there is flexibility and ease in portraying nature, and what “clashes” is still considered an art of Monet.


  1. http://www. sedefscorner. om/2011/03/gustave-courbet-burial-at-ornans. html http://www. pbs. org/wgbh/cultureshock/flashpoints/visualarts/courbet. html
  2. http://www. obit-mag. com/articles/a-burial-teeming-with-life + reading material
  3. Sources: http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Impressionism
  4. http://www. artmovements. co. uk/impressionism. htm http://www. metmuseum. org/toah/hd/imml/hd_imml. htm + reading material

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Paintings of Courbet and Monet. (2020, Jun 01). Retrieved from

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