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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 Gustave Courbet in the “Realist Manifesto” that served as introduction to the solo exhibition mounted concurrently with Paris’ Exposition universelle of 1855, which had rejected some of his works. Leader of the Realist movement and ardent Republican, Courbet developed a uniquely rough manner of paint handling, often compared to manual labour. His style shocked critics, while his Socialist views were out of step with the Second Empire. Courbet practised all genres of painting, including landscape. Here, he portrayed his native region with a gestural performance in paint that was revolutionary for the time. Executed (according to some specialists) largely on-site, this magnificent and compelling canvas was likely the sketch for a larger work in the collection of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

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