42 Facts About Gustave Courbet


Jean Desire Gustave Courbet was a French painter who led the Realism movement in 19th-century French painting.


Gustave Courbet's independence set an example that was important to later artists, such as the Impressionists and the Cubists.


Gustave Courbet was imprisoned for six months in 1871 for his involvement with the Paris Commune and lived in exile in Switzerland from 1873 until his death four years later.


Gustave Courbet was born in 1819 to Regis and Sylvie Oudot Courbet in Ornans.


Gustave Courbet went to Paris in 1839 and worked at the studio of Steuben and Hesse.


Gustave Courbet achieved his first Salon success in 1849 with his painting After Dinner at Ornans.


The painting was inspired by a scene Gustave Courbet witnessed on the roadside.


Gustave Courbet's work belonged neither to the predominant Romantic nor Neoclassical schools.


Gustave Courbet courted controversy by addressing social issues in his work, and by painting subjects that were considered vulgar, such as the rural bourgeoisie, peasants, and working conditions of the poor.


For Gustave Courbet realism dealt not with the perfection of line and form, but entailed spontaneous and rough handling of paint, suggesting direct observation by the artist while portraying the irregularities in nature.


Gustave Courbet depicted the harshness of life, and in doing so challenged contemporary academic ideas of art.


One of the distinctive features of Gustave Courbet's Realism was his lifelong attachment to his native province, the Franche-Comte, and of his birthplace, Ornans.


The work was based on two men, one young and one old, whom Gustave Courbet discovered engaged in backbreaking labor on the side of the road when he returned to Ornans for an eight-month visit in October 1848.


Previously, models had been used as actors in historical narratives, but in Burial Gustave Courbet said he "painted the very people who had been present at the interment, all the townspeople".


Gustave Courbet became a celebrity and was spoken of as a genius, a "terrible socialist" and a "savage".


Gustave Courbet actively encouraged the public's perception of him as an unschooled peasant, while his ambition, his bold pronouncements to journalists, and his insistence on depicting his own life in his art gave him a reputation for unbridled vanity.


Gustave Courbet associated his ideas of realism in art with political anarchism, and, having gained an audience, he promoted democratic and socialist ideas by writing politically motivated essays and dissertations.


In 1855, Gustave Courbet submitted fourteen paintings for exhibition at the Exposition Universelle.


Gustave Courbet displayed forty of his paintings, including The Artist's Studio, in his gallery called The Pavilion of Realism which was a temporary structure that he erected next door to the official Salon-like Exposition Universelle.


Gustave Courbet was admired by the American James Abbott McNeill Whistler, and he became an inspiration to the younger generation of French artists including Edouard Manet and the Impressionist painters.


Gustave Courbet wrote a Realist manifesto for the introduction to the catalogue of this independent, personal exhibition, echoing the tone of the period's political manifestos.


On 4 September 1870, during the Franco-Prussian War, Gustave Courbet made a proposal that later came back to haunt him.


Gustave Courbet wrote a letter to the Government of National Defense, proposing that the column in the Place Vendome, erected by Napoleon I to honour the victories of the French Army, be taken down.


Gustave Courbet proposed that the Column be moved to a more appropriate place, such as the Hotel des Invalides, a military hospital.


Gustave Courbet wrote an open letter addressed to the German Army and to German artists, proposing that German and French cannons should be melted down and crowned with a liberty cap, and made into a new monument on Place Vendome, dedicated to the federation of the German and French people.


Gustave Courbet chaired the meeting and proposed that the Louvre and the Museum of the Luxembourg Palace, the two major art museums of Paris, closed during the uprising, be reopened as soon as possible and that the traditional annual exhibit called the Salon be held as in years past, but with radical differences.


Gustave Courbet proposed that the Salon should be free of any government interference or rewards to preferred artists; no medals or government commissions would be given.


Nonetheless, Gustave Courbet was a dissident by nature, and he was in opposition with the majority of the Commune members on some of its measures.


Gustave Courbet was one of a minority of Commune Members who opposed the creation of a Committee on Public Safety, modeled on the committee of the same name which carried out the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution.


Gustave Courbet's opposition was of no use; on 23 May 1871, in the final days of the Commune, Chaudey was shot by a Commune firing squad.


Gustave Courbet proposed that the confiscated art be given to the Louvre and other museums, but the director of the Louvre refused to accept it.


Gustave Courbet said he had only belonged to the Commune for a short period, and rarely attended its meetings.


Gustave Courbet was convicted, but given a lighter sentence than other Commune leaders; six months in prison and a fine of five hundred Francs.


Gustave Courbet did a famous series of still-life paintings of flowers and fruit.


Gustave Courbet completed his prison sentence on 2 March 1872, but his problems caused by the destruction of the Vendome Column were still not over.


Unable to pay, Gustave Courbet went into a self-imposed exile in Switzerland to avoid bankruptcy.


In May 1877, the state set the final cost of reconstructing the Vendome Column at 323,000 francs for Gustave Courbet to repay in annual installments of 10,000 francs for the next 33 years.


On 31 December 1877, a day before the first installment was due, Gustave Courbet died, aged 58, in La Tour-de-Peilz, Switzerland, of a liver disease aggravated by heavy drinking.


Gustave Courbet's pupils included Henri Fantin-Latour, Hector Hanoteau and Olaf Isaachsen.


Gustave Courbet's importance was announced by Guillaume Apollinaire, poet-spokesperson for the Cubists.


Many artworks created by Gustave Courbet were looted by Nazis and their agents during this period and have only recently been reclaimed by the families of the previous owners.


In March 2023, a museum at the University of Cambridge, in the United Kingdom, returned a painting La Ronde Enfantine by Gustave Courbet, which was stolen in 1941 by the Nazis in Paris.