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Gustave Courbet  

b. 1819 Ornans, France, d. 1877 La Tour-de-Peilz, Switzerland
painter; draftsman

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"I, who believe that every artist should be his own teacher, cannot dream of setting myself up as a professor. . . . [F]or each artist, [art is] nothing but the talent issuing from his own inspiration and his own studies of tradition." --Gustave Courbet

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.

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Courbet and the Modern Landscape

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Sleeping Bacchante / Courbet
Sleeping Bacchante

French, 1847

Standing Nude / Courbet
Standing Nude

French, 1849

Bouquet of Flowers / Courbet
Bouquet of Flowers

French, 1862

Grotto of Sarrazine / Courbet
Grotto of Sarrazine

French, 1864