Gustave Courbet(1819 1877)
Mme Merle, Paris (sale: Hôtel Drouot, Paris, October 1889, lot 474) Hôtel Drouot, Paris, August 1892, lot 300
Léon Orosdi (sale: Hôtel Drouot, Paris, May 1923, lot 10)
M. Dejean (purchased at the above sale)
Galerie Aktuaryus, Zurich
Emil Bührle (purchased from the above on 24.02.1937) Dr. Dieter Bührle, Zurich
Private Collection, Switzerland
Sotheby’s, London, December 2014, lot 21
Private Collection, England
Private Collection, Switzerland
Bordeaux, Société des Amis des Arts, 1864, no. 130.
Robert Fernier, La Vie et l’oeuvre de Gustave Courbet. Catalogue raisonné. Lausanne and Paris, 1977, vol. 1, pl 170, no. 281; illus. p. 171.
This painting represents one of Courbet’s favorite landscape subjects, the deep, rocky gorges surrounding a stream that flows or pushes through a dense, secluded landscape. A tributary of the Doubs river, the Loue runs through craggy limestone cliffs that are characteristic of the region near Courbet’s native Ornans, a small town in the mountainous Franche-Comté region of eastern France. In both Courbet’s landscape practice and his public presentation of himself as an artist, he established a close connection between his identity and the Franche-Comté, a region with particular social resonance and an impressive, rugged topography. He famously depicted himself at work on a landscape painting of the environs of Ornans in his monumental work of 1855, The Artist’s Studio: A Real Allegory Summing Up Seven Years of My Artistic and Moral Life (Musée d’Orsay, 361 x 598 cm).
As is typical in Courbet’s landscapes of the cliffs, streams, gorges, waterfalls and caves of the Doubs valley, our painting does not include human figures. Instead, it the painter’s forceful touch and the evidence of his gestures that animate this landscape, as the varied application of paint gives substance to the rough textures of the rocks and cliffs, the frothing water that pushes over the rocks, and the thick green shrubs that provide masses of light and dark to the composition. In these paintings, Courbet employed various tools —different sized brushes, palette knife, rags, and sometimes a thumb—to build up layers of paint and scrape them down 1. As Mary Morton has discussed,Courbet’s contemporary observers frequently associated the painter’s use of the palette knife with the frankness of his vision and procedures, and with the convincing, naturalistic effects of his paintings. As Jules Castagnary wrote in 1882, in the catalogue of Courbet’s posthumous exhibition at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts:
“Courbet used paint thickly, but without harshness and without roughness: his pictures are as smooth as ice, and shine like enamel. He achieves relief and movement at the same time by using just the right shade; and this shade, put on flat with a palette knife, acquires an extraordinary intensity. I have never seen any richer or more distinguished use of color, nor one that gains so much with age. 2”
Fernier has dated this work around 1860-63, which would place it shortly before Courbet’s 1864 series depicting the source of the Loue, in which a grotto or cave serves as the focus of a particularly dense, dark, skyless composition (1864, Metropolitan Museum of Art). By contrast, our painting is comparable to numerous works in which Courbet presents a wide range of landscape elements and textures against a bright blue sky, with strong contrasts of light and shade integrated into the composition, such as Landscape near Ornans (1864, Toledo Museum of Art). The composition of a later work, Source of the Doubs in the Rocks (1871, Musée des Beaux-Arts et d’Archéologie, Besançon) is similar to that of our painting.
- Mary Morton, “To Create a Living Art: Rethinking Courbet’s Landscape Painting,” in Courbet and the Modern Landscape, exh. cat., The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 2006, pp. 6-7.
- Morton, p. 7. Castagnary is cited in note 26. The above translation of Castagnary’s text is from the Musée d’Orsay website: http://www.musee-orsay.fr/en/collections/courbet- dossier/reception-of-courbets-work.html accessed 7/30/2017.
Private collection, Germany
Jean-Jacques Fernier, vice president of the Institut Gustave Courbet has authenticated and dated this work to the autumn of 1858. It was at that time that Courbet discovered the pleasures of hunting in the forest of Francfort, in the Jura, while staying with friends. The combination of precision and boldness in the draftsman’s touch, along with the compositional setting, are characteristic of Courbet’s work on paper during this period.
The theme of deer in the forest is an important one in Courbet’s painted works from the late 1850s through the 1860s. This particular sheet does not correspond to a specific painting, and appears to have been conceived as an independent work in its own right.
The drawing will be published in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of Courbet’s work, currently in preparation by Jean-Jacques Fernier.