French painter Gustave Courbet

This video says about itself:

A Mockumentary about Gustave Courbet, the French realist painter. See puppets bring to life the intriguing story of the man brave enough to use a pallette knife and stand against the wave of current trends.

By Clare Hurley:

The art of Gustave Courbet in his epoch and in ours

10 October 2008

“[They] call me ‘the socialist painter.’ I accept that title with pleasure. I am not only a socialist but a democrat and a Republican as well—in a word, a partisan of all the revolution and above all a Realist … for ‘Realist’ means a sincere lover of the honest truth.” [1]

While artists go in and out of fashion for various reasons, the renewed interest of late in French painter Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) corresponds to a turn in the contemporary art scene toward a model of the political artist and a rediscovered conception of realism that is encouraging. The retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum in New York this past spring was the first time since the centenary of Courbet’s death thirty years ago that such a large exhibition of this far from obscure painter’s work has been mounted. A smaller exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum in 1988 followed the centenary show in London and Paris, but there has been no significant exhibition since then in the United States.

In his own lifetime Courbet’s larger-than-life image as an artist with political “attitude” earned him censure from bourgeois circles. Ridiculed in the popular press of the day as arrogant and uncouth and a poor painter, Courbet, far from being stung by the criticism, proudly proclaimed himself to be “the proudest and most arrogant man in France.”

The Metropolitan’s exhibition perhaps overemphasized this image of Courbet as an attention-hound whose egotism welcomed scandal. Egotism and ambition were undeniably aspects of Courbet’s personality, but these characteristics were not just the self-aggrandizement of a career-driven artist. In a larger sense, they were an expression of the revolutionary confidence of Courbet’s generation, reflecting the emergence of the modern working class and its first political awakening. Why should only rotten people be presumptuous?

For it cannot be emphasized enough that Courbet’s artistic career opened with the Revolution of 1848 and closed with the Paris Commune of 1871. While the degree to which he participated directly in these events has been questioned, on the one hand, and held against him, on the other; his assertive self-confidence and impassioned belief in the artist’s role in leading “the people”—broadly conceived—into a free and egalitarian future were shaped by these events.

17 thoughts on “French painter Gustave Courbet

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  3. This is the way to learn about artistic endeavors! We need to hear an artist’s story before we can understand the painting. We we would see their world with fresh eyes. We would experience a transformation….


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