top of page

Gustave Courbet

A Political Painter? 

From Communard to Proudhonian

Du principe de l'art e, Proudhon,  de sa destinatio sociale, 1875

It's tempting to reduce history to a few simplistic narratives, using classifications and clever labels, and so Gustave Courbet remained for a long time the paragon of the committed painter.


But a closer look won't reveal anarchist scenes or revolutionary landscapes. And if there is politics, it is insidiously distilled and subtly violent, acting through the transgression of the pictorial and the social.

Gustave Courbet, Bonjour monsieur Courbet ou  La rencontre, 1854

An exercise in unmasking his distortions of reality and academic conventions, perhaps to the benefit of his political convictions.

Gustave Courbet, Un enterrement à Ornans, 1849-50
Gustave Courbet, L’atelier du peintre, 1855
Gustave Courbet, Les Baigneuses, 1853
Bertall, La terrible Savoyarde, 1853
Gustave Courbet, Les paysans de Flagey (Le retour de la foire), 1849-50
La Carmagnole
Gill, « Courbet avant la lettre »
Gustave Courbet, Les casseurs de pierre, 1849
Gustave Courbet, Les demoiselles des bords de la Seine (été), 1857
bottom of page