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Gustave Courbet

June 10, 1819 - December 31, 1877
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Gustave Courbet is considered the father of the realist movement, revolutionizing modernism and altering the boundaries of what subjects were shown in art and in what light. Gustave Courbet was born on June 10, 1819, in Ornans, a place he remained connected to throughout his life. He attended both the Collège Royal and the college of fine arts at Besançon. Upon moving to Paris in 1841, he began to study paintings in the Louvre and trained through copying 17th-century Spanish paintings, especially the works of Diego Velazquez. After several years of rejection, his first Salon painting was accepted in 1844, though his breakthrough as an artist did not come until later. In the Paris Salon of 1850-1851, he displayed a group of paintings set in Ornans, which featured realistic scenes of everyday life and workers. The works caused a sensation, and his fame developed from there. Gustave Courbet also had a distinctly rebellious and a political streak. In 1855, due to some of his works being rejected, he set up his own exhibition next to the Exposition Universelle of Paris as an act of spite. Gustave Courbet continued to exhibit around the world, eventually rising to be president of the Artists’ Federation, yet his political leanings eventually impacted his career. In 1872, following the collapse of the second empire, he became involved in the revolutionary activities of the Paris Commune, which would later lead to his arrest. Gustave Courbet would decide to self-exile himself in 1872 and move to Switzerland, where he would spend the last years of his life. Gustave Courbet never married. He died at the age of 58, likely from the effects of consistent drinking. Gustave Courbet was considered a pioneer in both modernism and realism, and his decision to display everyday life on the same scale of grandeur as history paintings. Gustave Courbet’s paintings were rooted in the tangible and the real; he always wanted the physical model before him in order to incite thoughts. His style was consistently bold and unconventional, and his work created the new concept of the modern nude. Ornans was never far from his work, he forever returned to the topography of his home, finding it essential to his art.

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