Gustave Courbet


Gustave Courbet. The Meeting. 1854. Oil on canvas, 50 3/4 x 58 5/8 inches.

A visual record of an encounter between the artist and his wealthy patorn, the painter's informal costume helped promote Courbet's image as a carefree artist serving the cause of Realism. Despite the partnership between artist and patron, the tilt of the artist's head and his foreground placement proclaim his preeminence. Critics ridiculed this painting, claiming it had no narrative, dramatic, or anecdotal subject, and accused Courbet of self-promotion and narcissism. Relishing the controversy, Courbet remained true to his vision and continued to make art from his own life??an approach that influenced Manet and the Impressionists.

Courbet was well aware of his role as the heretical independent, single-handedly taking on the government. "It is a serious responsibility to first provide the example of liberty and personality in art," he said. His arrogance fueled the controversy that surrounded his work. When The Meeting, or "Bonjour Monsieur Courbet" (1854), was shown at the Salon of 1855, its subject was caricatured in a cartoon showing the artist's supporter, Alfred Bruyas, and his companion kneeling, rather than standing, before Courbet; a caption read, "Realist Imitation of the Adoration of the Magi." The artist's self-assurance and enthusiasm are indicated in The Homecoming (1854), a symbolic self-portrait as an unencumbered, joyful, free-wandering artist.


Frank Lesak