The conceptual beginnings of the "painting of Modern life" are as much in Courbet' s Realism as in Charles Baudelaire' s famous essay of the same name. In this new assessment, published on the occasion of a major 2008 traveling exhibition, renowned experts shed light on the development of Courbet' s realistic, critical style and trace his influence on his contemporaries and subsequent generations, as well as his relationship to early photography. At 480 pages, this monumental volume provides a long-overdue reckoning of this great artist' s work. Nowadays it is difficult to conceive of the impact that Gustave Courbet' s paintings made on French art of the mid-nineteenth century. At once casting himself as revolutionary, bohemian and peasant, Courbet (1819-1877) overturned a deeply-entrenched tradition of academic painting in France, and, eschewing the Romanticism of Delacroix and the NeoClassicism of Ingres, coined instead an idiom he named "Realism. " Realism was not pretty, classically proportioned or literary; rather, it confronted the conditions of rural working life, then an unimaginable subject for art. The first masterpiece of this new style was "Burial at Ornans" (1849-1850), a colossal anti-epic that depicted an ordinary funeral in Courbet' s home town. The contrast between the work' s scale and its subject matter was pronounced, and its murky earth tones struck critics as willfully ugly--a defining reaction that would recur throughout the Modern period, particularly in the reception of early works by Manet and Picasso. Courbet' s palette emphasized mass and body politically--that is, in a manner that affirmed the world itself rather than the transcendence of it. His equally famous "The Origin of the World" of 1866, which presented the female genitalia close-up, made this stance explicit.
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Hatje Cantz Verlag
|Gustave Courbet Hatje Cantz Verlag |
Made in 1866, the painting was for decades the unknown masterpiece of the nineteenth century-a work that few saw at the time but which everyone discussed, and which retains its provocativeness even today. Courbet' s landscapes-depicting the springs, caves, steep limestone cliffs and the forests of Jura around Ornans, where he was born-are often combined with representations of the female nude, uniting sexuality and nature in a fascinating equilibrium. Other canvases center on the impenetrable darkness of mountain caves (showing Courbet to have been a master of suggestion), and snowscapes. Published for an exhibition at the Fondation Beyeler, this volume concentrates on Gustav Courbet' s position as the first avant-garde painter.
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