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Manet  and Seurat

A Burial at Ornans and The painter's Studio,

two covertly political paintings

Was Gustave Courbet
a political painter?

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Realism in 19th century
Manet and Seurat

Gustave Courbet died ruined and in exile, the unfortunate consequence of his political choices. This civic commitment is not enough to justify his reputation as a committed painter; if there was a political painting, it was only for the initiated.

1. From painter to communard

A politician

Gustave Courbet held elected office: he took part in the founding of the Third Republic and was a representative of the Commune. Accused of being responsible for the destruction of the Vendôme column, he fled the country.

2. Courbet’s trilogy

Iconographic and formal study, the critical reaction 

Shortly after the Revolution of 1848, a revolution in which he did not take part, although he was in Paris at the time, Gustave Courbet painted his famous trilogy and sent it to the Salon in 1850: three peasant pictures that are not, if anything, overtly political. 


4. Courbet, the Proudhon of painting 

The Painter’s Studio, a Proudhonian reading 


Gustave Courbet applied what he had learnt from Proudhonian anarchism and mutualism to his painting, in particular to Bonjour, Monsieur Courbet. The Painter's Studio can even be interpreted as an illustration of Proudhon's thought.


Readings ​Jean-Luc MAYAUD, Courbet, l'Enterrement à Ornans : un tombeau pour la République, La Boutique de l'histoire éditions, 1999 T.J. Clark, Image of the People – Gustave Courbet and the 1848 Revolution, Princetone University Press, 1973 Pierre-Joseph Proudhon Du Principe de l'art et de sa destination sociale, Garnier Frères,1865 James Henry Rubin, Realism and Social Vision in Courbet and Proudhon, Princetone University Press, 1980

Iconographic study

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