Gustave Courbet

Dates1819 - 1877
BornOrnans, France
DiedLa Tour-de-Peilz, Switzerland

Emphatic in his opinions and constantly defying authority, Courbet believed that painters should paint only their own time and that "painting is an essentially concrete art, and can consist only of representation of real and existing things." After leaving rural Ornans for Paris, he was most influenced by the seventeenth-century Spanish paintings and Dutch canvases that he saw in the Louvre and on a trip to Holland in 1847. By 1850, he was shocking the public with the Realism and scale of his paintings. In December of that year, he exhibited three huge canvases of contemporary peasant life at the Salon; their enormous size was traditionally reserved for history paintings of more "important" subjects. Five years later, when his painting The Artist's Studio was refused by the Universal Exhibition of 1855, Courbet erected his own exhibition, Le Réalisme, in a tent and charged admission. The accompanying "Realist Manifesto" in his exhibition brochure articulated his credo of painting. With that, he became the rallying point of a new generation, including Édouard Manet.