Callen, Anthea. Courbet. London: Jupiter Books, 1990
Died: La Tour-de-Peliz, Switzerland, 31 December 1877
wealthy farming family
Petit Séminaire (1830s, Ornans); with Charles-Antoine Flageoulot (pupil of Jacques-Louis David) at Collège Royal and Académie (Besançon); Académie Suisse (Paris)
1838 – executes lithographs for his cousin Max Buchon’s Essais poétiques
1839 – moves to Paris
1849 –exhibits After Dinner at Ornans at Paris Salon
1851 – exhibits The Stonebreakers, Burial at Ornans and Peasants of Flagey Returning from the Fair (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Besançon) at Salon
1855 – Painter’s Studio rejected from Exposition universelle (Paris); 11 other works are accepted; exhibits independently in his Pavillon du Réalisme
1870 – refuses Cross of the Legion of Honor
1871 – convicted of participating in destruction of Vendôme Column and briefly imprisoned; during The Paris Commune, Courbet serves as president of the commission for the protection of artistic monuments in Paris and as delegate for the fine arts
1873 – exiled to Switzerland
1882 – retrospective exhibition at Ecole des Beaux-Arts
Netherlands (1846); Belgium (1846-47); Baden-Baden and Bad Homburg
Charles, Duc de Morny; Alfred Bruyas; Kahlil-Bey
Courbet described his artistic goals in an informational pamphlet distributed at his Pavilion of Realism in 1855:
“I have studied, outside of any system and without prejudice, the art of the ancients and the art of the moderns. I no more wanted to imitate the one than to copy the other. No! I simply wanted to draw forth from a complete acquaintance with tradition and the reasoned and independent consciousness of my own individuality.
To know in order to create, that was my idea. To be in a position to translate the customs, the ideas, the appearance of my epoch, according to my own estimation; to be not only a painter, but a man as well; in short to create living art – this is my goal.”
Translated and reprinted in Linda Nochlin, ed., Realism and Tradition in Art, 1848-1900: Sources and Documents (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1966), pp. 33-4.
In a November 1851 letter published in Le Messager de l’Assemblée Courbet declared:
“I am not only a socialist, but also a democrat and a republican, in a word a partisan of the entire Revolution and, beneath that, a realist, that is to say a sincere friend of actual truth.”
Cited in John F. Moffitt, “Art and Politics: An Underlying Pictorial-Political Topos in Courbet’s Real Allegory,” Artibus et Historiae, vol. 8, no. 15 (1987): 183.
Paul Crapo argues that Courbet’s choice of subject matter was often politically motivated:
“Courbet’s repeated dealings with the imperial regime [of Napoleon III] impacted strongly on the subjects he chose to execute and the canvases he sent to the annual Salon. Equally as important…these dealings also helped the painter define the qualities essential to his art and come to a fuller understanding of his calling as an artist.”
Paul B. Crapo, “The Problematics of Artistic Patronage under the Second Empire: Gustave Courbet’s Involved Relations with the Regime of Napoleon III,” Zeithschrift für Kunstgeschichte, vol. 58, no. 2 (1995): 240.