The J. Paul Getty Museum

Grotto of Sarrazine near Nans-sous-Sainte-Anne

Object Details


Grotto of Sarrazine near Nans-sous-Sainte-Anne


Gustave Courbet (French, 1819 - 1877)




about 1864


Oil on canvas

Object Number:



50.2 × 60 cm (19 3/4 × 23 5/8 in.)

See more

See less

Object Description

To create a living art, that is my aim.
--Gustave Courbet

Through a dynamic composition and radical painting technique, Gustave Courbet emphasized the specific qualities of this primordial cave in his native region of the Jura Mountains in eastern France. Earthy hues and textures swirl around a tunnel-like entrance, drawing attention to the clear blue stream running through it. Two large boulders stand before the vortex, several feet from a wall hugged by delicate scaffolding. To mimic the cavern's craggy and colorful surfaces, Courbet used palette knives to apply and scrape off paint and brushes to mix drying paint in with wet.

Like many tourists and scientists of his day, Courbet was probably drawn to the grotto for its geological interest. In the mid-1860s, he frequently painted caves as a means to explore composition and technique freely, and to demonstrate his strong belief that artistic subjects should be rooted in one's lived experience. He saw the basis of Realism as "the denial of the ideal," the rejection of established classical subjects and a refined style. He chose instead, to paint only what he could see.

by 1874
- 1875

Ernest Hoschedé, French, 1837 - 1891 (France) [sold, Hoschedé sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, April 20, 1875, lot 32.]

1875 - 1876

Private Collection [sold, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, April 14, 1876, lot 16.]

by 1896

Félix Gérard père (Paris, France) [sold, Gérard sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, February 25, 1896, lot 18.]

1897 -

Georges Marchand (Cognac, France), by inheritance within the Marchand family.

- 1989

Marchand Family [sold, Sotheby's, Monaco, December 3, 1989, lot 536, canceled by buyer.]

1989 - 2003

Marchand Family [sold, Christie's, New York, April 23, 2003, lot 37, to Salander-O'Reilly Galleries, LLC.]

2003 - 2004

Salander-O'Reilly Galleries, LLC (New York, New York), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 2004.

Gustave Courbet (October 28 to November 29, 2003)
  • Salander-O'Reilly Galleries, LLC (New York), October 28 to November 29, 2003
Courbet and the Modern Landscape (February 21, 2006 to January 7, 2007)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), February 21 to May 14, 2006
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, June 18 to September 10, 2006
  • Walters Art Museum (Baltimore), October 15, 2006 to January 7, 2007
Gustave Courbet (October 8, 2007 to September 28, 2008)
  • Galeries nationales du Grand Palais (Paris), October 8, 2007 to January 28, 2008
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), February 25 to May 18, 2008

Galerie Durand-Ruel: Recueil d'estampes gravées à l'eau-forte. Préface par Armand Silvestre (Paris and London: Maisons Durand-Ruel, 1873), unpaginated, pl. 195 (etching by Deblois).

"Vente publique aux enchères de la collection des tableaux modernes de M. H. [...] faite en l'hôtel des commissaires-priseurs de Paris, le 20 avril 1875." Journal des amateurs d'objets d'art et de curiosité, no. 19 (July-September 1875), p. 116, no. 32.

Hôtel Drouot, Paris. Résumé du catalogue des tableaux modernes composant la collection de M. H. [...]. April 20, 1875, p. 5, lot 32.

Hôtel Drouot, Paris. Catalogue de tableaux modernes dépendant de la collection de M.*** [...]. April 14, 1876, p. 7, lot 16.

Hôtel Drouot, Paris. Catalogue de tableaux modernes, aquarelles & dessins [...]. February 25, 1896, p. 13, lot 18.

Riat, Georges. Gustave Courbet: Peintre (Paris: H. Floury, 1906), p. 217.

Fernier, Robert. La vie et l'oeuvre de Gustave Courbet: Catalogue raisonné. 2 vols. (Geneva: Fondation Wildenstein, 1977-78), vol. 1 (1977), pp. 218-19, no. 392, ill.

Courthion, Pierre. L'opera completa di Courbet. Marina Anzil Robertini, trans. (Milan: Rizzoli, 1985), p. 94, no. 373, ill.

Sotheby's, Monaco. Importants tableaux et dessins du XIXe siècle. December 3, 1989, pp. 66-67, lot 536, ill.

Fernier, Jean-Jacques, and Chantal Humbert. Les graveurs de Courbet (Ornans: Musée Courbet, 1990), unpaginated, ill. (etching by Henri Toussaint).

Wieseltier, Leon, and Sarah Faunce, eds. Gustave Courbet, exh. cat. (New York: Salander-O'Reilly, 2003), pp. 26-27, ill., entry by Sarah Faunce.

Christie's, New York. 19th Century European Art, Including Barbizon, Realist and French Landscape Paintings [...]. April 23, 2003, p. 59, lot 37, ill.

Morton, Mary. "Courbet and the Modern Landscape." In Seeing and Beyond: Essays on Eighteenth- to Twenty-First-Century Art in Honor of Kermit S. Champa. Deborah J. Johnson and David Ogawa, eds. (New York: Peter Lang, 2005), pp. 113-14, 122, fig. 1.

Morton, Mary, and Charlotte Eyerman, eds. Courbet and the Modern Landscape, exh. cat. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2006), pp. vi, vii, 81-82, 86, pl. 20.

Des Cars, Laurence, et al. Gustave Courbet, exh. cat. (Paris: Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, 2007), pp. 229, 270, no. 115, ill., entry by Laurence des Cars.

Le Men, Ségolène. Courbet (Paris: Éditions Citadelles & Mazenod, 2007), pp. 284-85, fig. 231.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections. 7th ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2007), p. 134, ill.

Doherty, Tiarna, and Anne T. Woollett. Looking at Paintings: A Guide to Technical Terms. Rev. ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2009), p. 51, ill.

Tseng, Shao-Chien. "Positivism, Memory, and Allegory: Courbet's Landscape Paintings." The Journal of Art Theory and Practice (December 2011), pp. 97, 98, fig. 2.

Rubin, James H. "Gustave Courbet and Music: Soundscapes and the Total Work of Art." In Rival Sisters, Art and Music at the Birth of Modernism, 1815-1915. James H. Rubin with Olivia Mattis, eds. (Farnham: Ashgate, 2014), p. 125, fig. 6.6.

Education Resources
Education Resources

Education Resource




Landscapes, Classical to Modern