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Gustave Courbet Gallery     Prints.     Full biography.
Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) Gustave Courbet was born in Ornans, France. He went to Paris in 1839. Towards the end of the 1860s, Courbet painted a series of increasingly erotic works. His refusal of the cross of the Legion of Honour, offered to him by Napoleon III, made him immensely popular.
Porteuses de Fagots
Grotto of Sarrazine
Standing Female Nude
Bohemienne et ses Enfants
Rock at Bayard, Dinart
Reclining Woman
Woman with a Parrot


Oil on canvas. 77x128 cm
France. Circa 1865/1866
Source of Entry:   formerly in the collection of Bernhard Koehler, Berlin.
Transferred from Germany after World War II

In Courbet's portrayal of the nude female body, two opposing tendencies emerged quite early: he could either display the body following the aesthetic ideals of Parisian society of the time or, on the contrary, show it with heightened realism.

Reclining Woman reflects the artist's hesitation as to whether he should act in the spirit of realism or follow tradition as he understood it. Courbet chose the former, even if his realism in that case made some concession to academic convention.

Concerning this figure in the natural setting, it can be noted that the sensuality of the reclining woman is expressed not only in the contours of her body but also in the colour of her hair. By echoing the colour of the woman's hair in the golden-red foliage of the background, the artist sought to unify the landscape - nature - with the nymph, its most beautiful embodiment.

Hermitage Museum
Comments about Courbet

Date:Sunday June 3, 2007 3:33:49 pm MDT
Subject:Gustave Courbet
Message:Gustave Courbet (June 10, 1819 - December 31, 1877) was a French painter.

Born in Ornans (Doubs), he went to Paris in 1839, and worked at the studio of Steuben and Hesse but his independent spirit did not allow him to remain there long, as he preferred to work out his own way by the study of Spanish, Flemish and French painters. His first works, an Odalisque, suggested by Victor Hugo, and a Lélia, illustrating George Sand, were literary subjects; but these he soon abandoned for the study of real life.

Among other works he painted his own portrait with his dog, and The Man with a Pipe, both of which were rejected by the jury of the Paris Salon. However, the younger school of critics, the neo-romantics and realists, loudly sang the praises of Courbet, who by 1849 began to be famous, producing such pictures as After Dinner at Ornans and The Valley of the Loire. The Salon of 1850 found him triumphant with the Burial at Ornans, the Stone-Breakers and the Peasants of Flazey. His style still gained in individuality, as in Village Damsels (1852), the Wrestlers, Bathers, and A Girl Spinning (1852).

Though Courbet’s realistic work is not devoid of importance, it is as a landscape and sea painter that he will be most honoured by posterity. Sometimes, it must be owned, his realism is rather coarse and brutal, but when he paints the forests of Franche-Comté, the Stag-Fight, The Wave, or the Haunt of the Does. He is in his element. When Courbet had made a name as an artist he grew ambitious of other glory; he tried to promote democratic and social science, and under the Empire he wrote essays and dissertations.

Towards the end of the 1860s, Courbet painted a series of increasingly erotic works. While banned from public display, the works only served to increase his notoriety.

His refusal of the cross of the Legion of Honour, offered to him by Napoleon III, made him immensely popular, and in 1871 he was elected, under the Commune, to the chamber. Thus it happened that he was responsible for the destruction of the Vendôme column. A council of war, before which he was tried, condemned him to pay the cost of restoring the column, 300,000 francs. To escape the necessity of working to the end of his days at the orders of the State in order to pay this sum, Courbet went to Switzerland in 1873, and died at La Tour du Peilz, of a disease of the liver aggravated by hard drinking. An exhibition of his works was held in 1882 at the École des Beaux-Arts.

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