Gustave Courbet

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Gustave Courbet was quite simply one of the most influential artists of the 19th century. He had no interest in history painting, portraiture of heads of state, or exotic subject matter, for he believed that the artist should be realistic and paint everyday events involving ordinary people. He was a French artist who has been regarded as the father of the Realist movement.

Courbet, (Jean Desire) Gustave (1819-1877), influential and prolific French painter, who with his compatriots Honoré Daumier and Jean François Millet, founded the mid-19th-century art movement called realism.

Courbet, was born June 10, 1819, in Ornans. He came from a well-to-do family of large-scale farmers in Franche-Comte, which was the area of France that was the most strongly influenced by neighboring Switzerland. Ornans was a small country town on the River Loue, surrounded by the high limestone rocks of the Jura; its population in Courbet's day was barely 3000.

This social and geographical background was of great importance to Courbet. He remained attached to Franche-Comte and its peasants throughout his life, portraying rural life in many pictures.

In the autumn of 1839, Courbet went to Paris to embark on a conventional training as a painter. Like many other young artists of his period, he was not impressed by the traditional academic teaching at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris; instead, after receiving a few months' teaching from Charles de Steuben, he attended the independent private academies run by Pere Suisse and Pere Lapin and also received advice from Nicolas-Auguste Hesse. At the same time, he copied works by the Old Masters at the Louvre.

Like Rembrandt and van Gogh, Courbet painted a large number of self-portraits, especially in the 1840s. These quite often show the artist in a particular role or state of mind. Some example of the...