Learn About Gustave Courbet, the Leader of the Realist Art Movement

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The 19th century was a period of great change in art in Europe, especially France. The era began with a focus on romanticism, but another movement took place in the 1840s, dramatically changing the course of art history. France-based realism emphasized the lives of ordinary working class people in a modern environment. Gustave Courbet At the heart of this movement, he created a large depiction of the peasants who shocked the country.

While artists like Delacroix previously created ideal scenes with an emphasis on drama and emotion, Courbet tells the truth about how the average worker lived in France in the 1850s. I pursued the art of communicating. “It’s the best, the worst, the average society,” he said of his practice. “In short, it’s my way of seeing society with all my interests and passions. It’s the whole world that comes to me to be painted.”

Scroll down to learn more about Courbet and the characteristics of his art.

Who was Gustave Courbet?

Gustave Courbet Photo

Gustave Courbet’s Daguerreotype photo, c. 1850 (Photo: Felix Nadar via Wikimedia Commons, public domain)

Gustave Courbet (1819 – 1877) was an influential 19th-century painter who led the realist movement in the mid-to-late 1800s. Born to a wealthy farmer in Ornans, France, he studied painting in Paris and then developed his style. During his journey as a young adult, he was inspired by the portrayals of modern life by Rembrandt and the Dutch Masters.

By the time Courbet was thirty, he settled on a style that did not belong to romanticism or classicism. Instead of portraying idealized figures and historical scenes, Courbet was interested in rural life. He believed that artists should paint what they know, in his case the French countryside. An independent spirit and avid political philosopher, his work included paintings of peasants, workers, landscapes, nudity and still lifes.

Courbet’s artistic features

Interest in country life

Sieve wheat by Gustave Courbet

Gustave Courbet, “Sieving Wheat”, 1854 (Photo: Nantes Museum via Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

As a realist, Courbet has his art Working class French In a modern setting. He thought that artists should portray what they are familiar with. Growing up in the countryside, he was drawn to the portrayals of peasants and rural workers.

Realistic figure

Gustave Courbet's Seine young woman

Gustave Courbet, “Young Woman by the Seine”, 1857 (Photo: Museum of Arts via Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

Courbet was not interested in idealizing his appearance.He wanted to base on the characters in his paintings, as he was devoted to portraying the harsh realities of his life. Real people.. Often this meant using friends, family, sex workers, or workers he asked to pose for him in the studio.

Rough handling of paint

After dinner at Ornance by Gustave Courbet

Gustave Courbet, “After Supper at the Organ”, 1857 (Photo: Palais des Beaux Arts via Wikimedia Commons, public domain)

Instead of carefully modeling his appearance and creating smooth shapes and lines, Courbet preferred to apply Paint in a rough and expressive way.. In his opinion, this crude stylistic approach more accurately reflected the anomalies of nature.


The Painter's Studio by Gustave Courbet

Gustave Courbet, The Painter’s Studio, 1849-1850 (Photo: Musée d’Orsay via Wikimedia Commons, public domain)

Many of Courbet’s most famous works Large scale.. This is nothing special in itself, but Courbet’s use of scales has led to controversy as he used scales to emphasize subjects that were considered worthless like the general public.

Famous painting

The Stone Breakers1849

Gustave Courbet's Stone Breakers

Gustave Courbet, The Stone Breakers, 1949 (painting lost in a 1945 fire) (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, public domain)

Made in 1849, The Stone Breakers It depicts “completely expressing the expression of poverty.” Two individuals, looking away from viewers to maintain anonymity and keep them on behalf of the group, are working on breaking rocks beside the road. This large-scale depiction shocked the audience at the Salon in Paris with its realism.

Unfortunately, the masterpiece was destroyed during World War II.

Ornan’s burial1849 ~ 1850

Ornan's burial by Gustave Courbet

Gustave Courbet, “A Burial At Ornan”, 1849-1850 (Photo: Musée d’Orsay via Wikimedia Commons, public domain)

10 x 22 feet, Courbet’s Ornan’s burial A large-scale depiction of an ordinary townsman. He was based on the funeral of his grand uncle for all the characters and the event itself. By arranging these everyday people on such an important scale, usually reserved for epic and historical stories, he is ugly with his incredible painting talent. He was considered a “terrible socialist” who was creating unwanted works of art.


Gustave Courbet's sleep

Gustave Courbet, “Sleeping”, 1866 (Photo: Petit Palais via Wikimedia Commons, public domain)

Courbet had a great influence on the flow of art history. “Courbet is the father of a new painter,” said Guillaume Apollinaire, a French art critic.

His unusual approach to painting, focusing on flaws and the reality of the common people, influenced many later artists. Many Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painters like Monet and Cezanne referred to him as a major source of inspiration in the development of their style.

Related article:

Learn about Eugene Delacroix, a pioneer of French Romantic painters

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10 important Impressionist painters who shaped the iconic movement

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