The History of Art And The Curious Lives of Famous Painters

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Gustave Courbet


French Realist Painter

One of the Greatest Painters Of All Time

Education -  Royal College in Besançon

Cause of Death -  Dropsy, he was also afflicted with excruciating hemorrhoids in his latter years.

Courbet grew up in the French countryside, the son of a upper middleclass bourgeoisie family. His parents doted on young Gustav and hoped he would study law or become a doctor. Once the young artist moved to Paris he disdained his parents lifestyle and rented a small studio to live and work amongst the poor. Courbet stated"When we see men of worth, we should think of equaling them; when we see men of a contrary character, we should turn inward and examine ourselves. "

Sometimes he even slept in doorways to feel a camaraderie with the homeless. When he became desperate for money his family usually sent enough to keep him going

From his earliest days Courbet emerged as a truly original voice in the art world. He used his brilliant talent to make bold social commentary on poverty and injustice. The young painter lived the life of a true bohemian and rabble-rouser. Courbet asserted "I hope to live all my life for my art, without abandoning my principles one iota, without . . . having painted as much as you can cover with your hand, to please somebody or in order to sell the picture more easily."

Courbet cutting edge realist style was revolutionary for the times. Parisian critics scoffed at his paintings and declared his an outcast.  Some of his paintings caused scandals and threats of violence.  W. C. Brownell states "It is easy to say he had all the coarseness without the sentiment of the French peasantry, whence he sprang; that his political radicalism attests a lack of the serenity of spirit indispensable to the sincere artist; that he had no conception of the beautiful, the exquisite—the fact remains that he triumphs over all his deficiencies, and in very splendid fashion. He is, in truth, of all the realists for whom he discovered the way, and set the pace, as it were, one of the two naturalistic painters who have shown in any high degree the supreme artistic faculty—that of generalization. However impressive Manet's picture may be; however brilliant Monet's endeavor to reproduce sunlight may seem; however refined and elegant Degas's delicate selection of pictorial material—for broad and masterful generalization, for enduing what he painted with an interest deeper than its surface and underlying its aspect.

Gustave Courbet Art Quotes


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