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Gustave Courbet

The Brook of the Black Well


Gustave Courbet
Ornans, France, 1819 – La Tour-de-Peilz, Switzerland, 1877


The Brook of the Black Well


About 1855


Oil on canvas


64.8 x 81.3 cm


Purchase, John W. Tempest Fund, inv. 1925.245


Western Art

“The title of Realist has been thrust upon me just as the title of Romantic was thrust upon the men of 1830,” wrote Courbet in the “Realist Manifesto” that served as introduction to the solo exhibition he put on concurrently with Paris’s Exposition universelle of 1855, which had rejected some of his works. Leader of the movement and an ardent Republican, he developed a style whose rough paints handling shocked critics, and his socialist views were out of step with the Second Empire. Courbet practised all genres of painting, including landscape. Here, he has employed his spirited technique to portray his native region, penetrating into nature’s untamed depths even more deeply than his friends of the Barbizon school. The result is a kind of pictorial struggle, a gestural performance that was revolutionary for the time. Executed (according to some specialists) largely onsite, this magnificent and compelling canvas was likely the sketch for a larger work in the collection of the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

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