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Gustave Courbet was arrogant, lewd, and unhealthily obsessed with his portly self.

But he wasn't a sellout. He continually put the middle finger to what the establishment wanted and expected. He submitted work after work of larger than life folks doing everyday things. Manual labor, funerals, the boring anecdotes you tell at a party and realize halfway through that the story sucks, but you finish quickly and move on from. From this output of giving zero eff's, he created what we call "Realism."

His legacy to capital 'A' Art is more massive than his beer gut (which, to be fair, was estimable). Monet painted Lunch on the Lawn at a time when he was crashing at a studio his friend, Bazille, shared with Courbet. Cèzanne was also a fan, claiming that no one, NO ONE, could paint snow like Courbet. Renoir, also, learned much from Courbet...but only about nudes. 

Nudes were kind of a thing for Courbet. He made a personal challenge out of submitting nudes to the most conservative juries of the Paris establishment. Courbet's most famous nude, The Origin of the World (a celebratory, in-yo-face, gigantic vagina), ruined Courbet's friendship with American painter Whistler. The marvelous muff is said to be based on an Irishwoman named Jo, Whistler's lover. But, Jo transferred Whistler's ticket to Flavortown to Courbet. Whistler took issue with Courbet and Jo doing the greasy wrestle and the friendship fell apart.

Courbet was tasked with kick starting the Parisian art scene by the Commune of Paris in 1871, a short-lived militaristic coalition of small governments throughout France. He resigned, however, when the Commune became more concerned with continuing the Franco-Prussian War than with finalizing the peace left unfulfilled by the last government. He was a lifelong pacifist, refusing even the Legion of Honor from Napoleon III because of its militaristic overtones. But, Courbet was used as a scapegoat by the next government for the destruction of the Vendôme Column (a monument to Napoleon's win at the Battle of Austerlitz) and sentenced to six months in jail. Considering many members of the Commune were getting put to death, six months didn't seem so bad. They let him have his paints and an easel. No nude models, but what can you do?

Things got a whole hell of a lot worse, though. A few years later, the French government ordered Courbet to pay 500,000 francs to rebuild the Vendôme. Courbet peaced out to Switzerland for the rest of his life. The French government nationalized and sold everything he didn't take. Courbet took up drinking and peaced to heaven on New Year's Eve shortly thereafter.

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Gustave Courbet

Jean Désiré Gustave Courbet (

UK: /ˈkʊərb/ KOOR-bay,
US: /kʊərˈb/
French: [ɡystav kuʁbɛ]; 10 June 1819 – 31 December 1877) was a French painter who led the Realism movement in 19th-century French painting. Committed to painting only what he could see, he rejected academic convention and the Romanticism of the previous generation of visual artists. His independence set an example that was important to later artists, such as the Impressionists and the Cubists. Courbet occupies an important place in 19th-century French painting as an innovator and as an artist willing to make bold social statements through his work.

Courbet's paintings of the late 1840s and early 1850s brought him his first recognition. They challenged convention by depicting unidealized peasants and workers, often on a grand scale traditionally reserved for paintings of religious or historical subjects. Courbet's subsequent paintings were mostly of a less overtly political character: landscapes, seascapes, hunting scenes, nudes, and still lifes. 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.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Gustave Courbet

Comments (4)




'arrogant, lewd, and unhealthily obsessed with his portly self' (Clayton Schuster's words. not mine). Reminds me of Trump...


They oughta get lunch sometime and compare notes! Hey!

pogo agogo

yuuuup. Maybe he'll accidentally choke on his mcdonalds hamburger and save America from himself.