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I had talked about Gustave Courbet (1819 – 1877) a while back in this post about Facebook censorship. I didn’t discuss at the time how influential Courbet was, but his work can be traced through a number of other painters, including Monet, Cezanne, Whistler, and, reaching well into the 20th Century, Edward Hopper. A good deal of his notoriety is due to the eroticism of many of his paintings, but he also produced wonderfully moody landscapes and disturbing, psychologically-charged self-portraits.

A lot of his work was overtly political, quite unusual for painters of his day. He felt a responsibility as an artist to portray the life around him, and ethos that was handed down through the Impressionists to the American Realists of the early 20th Century. He was not necessarily well-liked for his efforts but he was greatly admired by other progressive painters in mid-19th Century Paris.


Stream in the Jura Mountains/The Torrent (Gustave Courbet, 1872-73)

I started digging into Courbet’s work only because of the censorship thing I wrote about last year. I’m intrigued by what I found. He was a painter of considerable wit, insight, and talent. He drank himself to death at age 58, meeting the kind of tragic end that stalks so many talented people. I, for one, am grateful for the visual legacy he left behind.

The Wounded Man: A Self-Portrait (Gustave Courbet, 1855)



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