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Artist: Gustave Courbet
[French painter, 1819-1877]

Title: Self Portrait (Man with a Pipe)

Date: 1848-49
Medium: oil on canvas
Dimensions: 18 x 15 inches (45 x 37 cm)
Location: Musée Fabre, Montpellier, France

Image size: 762 x 900 pixels, 154Kbytes
Image source: CGFA
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Gustave Courbet: Self Portrait

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The French Realist tradition was an important break from the mannered and formulaic Academic style, but Corot's static landscapes and Millet's lifeless peasants can be a bit dreary. Degas' paintings are exquisite but conventional. And Manet's paintings are either Impressionistic or else they have a hint of Rousseau-like naïveté that is not truly realistic.

For my money, Courbet was the supreme Realist painter of his time - revolutionary, unblinking and passionate. Not to mention inconsistent - but see also such great works as The Painter's Studio, Deer Taking Shelter and The Sleepers.

His politics were revolutionary as well. He was involved with the Paris Commune and recommended the symbolic destruction of the Vendome Column. After the Paris Commune fell, he served six months in jail for his involvement and was financially ruined. As a result his last years were tragically spent in exile, mass-producing repetitious landscapes.
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