Saturday, March 10, 2012

Courbet, Gustave

The Wave (La vague)
Oil on canvas
63 × 92 cm
Frankfurt, Staedel Museum

"I am fifty years old and I have always lived in freedom. Let me end my life free. When I am dead let this be said of me: He belonged to no school, to no church, to no institution, to no academy, least of all to any régime except the régime of liberty."

Jean Désiré Gustave Courbet (1819 – 1877) was a French painter who led the Realist movement in 19th-century French painting. He occupies an important place in 19th century French painting as an innovator and as an artist willing to make bold social commentary in his work.

The Wave is testimony to the new conception of reality, and represents a milestone in art history. There is not a trace of mankind in this work, and no land in sight. Confronted with nature’s unleashed violence, we have no fixed standpoint to which we can retreat. We are pulled into the surf and the peak of the wave is about to come crashing down on us. At the same time, our gaze wanders across the surface of the water to the horizon. We feel abandoned and exposed. This painting is the expression of human struggle for survival and at the same time symbols of a hope for a better future as well as the experience of nature.
Courbet died, at the age of 58 in Switzerland, of a liver disease aggravated by heavy drinking.
“Painting”, in Courbet's view, “should consist solely of the reproduction of things the artist can see and touch.”