GUSTAVE COURBET (1819-1877)
Two deer at rest in a snowy landscape
Oil on canvas with the collection stamp 'TD' (Théodore Duret, on the reverse side of the canvas) and the red wax stamp 'F.L.D.' (on the frame, unidentified initials, probably Fernand Lair-Dubreuil) 46. 5 x 55.5 cm.5 x 55.5 cm. painted in 1866 Mr. Niklaus Manuel Güdel, president of the Swiss Society for the Study of Gustave Courbet, exhibited and published the present work.
Provenance: Théodore Duret, Paris (Collection stamp with the initials 'TD', on the reverse of the canvas). Private collection, Paris. Exhibition: Ornans, Musée Gustave Courbet, edited by Diana Blome and Niklaus Manuel Güdel, Courbet / Hodler: an encounter, October 2019-January 2020, p. 159, no. 107 (the present work illustrated). oil on canvas, bears the collection stamp "TD" (Théodore Duret on the backside of the canvas), and the red wax seal "F.L.D." on the frame (not identified, probably Fernand Lair-Dubreuil), 18 7/64 x 21 ²¹/32 in, painted in 1866.
"One of the most charismatic, complex, and innovative figures of his time, Gustave Courbet made headlines like few of his contemporaries. Beginning in the 1840s between Romanticism and the troubadour style, he asserted himself in the 1850s as the champion of Realism, in opposition to the Romanticism and Academism dominating the Parisian art scene in 1850. A pioneer of modern painting and a precursor of Impressionism, Courbet was one of the first artists to forge his legend and success by multiplying provocations and scandals, rejecting political and clerical institutions, until his final exile to Switzerland in 1873. Courbet emerged during the 1850s as the painter of the forces of nature and of uncompromising human representation, which he raised to the level of history painting. In this respect, Courbet's birthplace, Ornans in the Franche-Comté region of France, greatly influenced his search for an artistic truth anchored in reality. Courbet was particularly attached to this largely rural region of small mountains, fertile agricultural valleys and pine forests, and drew inspiration from it for his greatest masterpieces, manifestos of Realism: The Burial in Ornans, The Painter's Studio, The Meeting. After living in Paris in the 1840s-50s, Courbet returned to nature in the 1860s as his reputation grew and his financial situation improved. Courbet alternated his time between Normandy and especially Ornans, which became his main base until his exile in Switzerland. He turned to landscapes, a genre he was particularly fond of and which was more intimate. Courbet was more interested in vigorous subjects, such as the powerful waves of Normandy in heavy weather, or in exploring the picturesque sites and wildlife of the Jura, than in the circles of influence with which he was associated. It was during the winter of 1866-67, back in Ornans after a stay with the diplomat Horace de Choiseul Praslin, that Courbet began his most important series of snow landscapes, a subject he first depicted in 1856 with Stag Running in the Snow, and then more regularly from the 1860s onwards. The present work is part of this series painted during the winter of 1866-67. Courbet captures a moment of serenity in a corner of the Ornans valley where, between the river and the forest, two deer rest serenely, unknowingly observed, frozen in the glistening snow. The complex treatment of this work testifies to Courbet's unceasing quest to mimic reality: working sometimes with a brush for the underlays, sometimes with a knife for the surface materials, Courbet innovates with a varied approach to materials to transcribe the most sincerely the mineral, the vegetable and the animal. The vivid cold, the glitter of the snow and the meditative silence of the frozen nature, is tempered by a compact composition with a limited perspective, which reinforces the intimacy and the privileged character of the scene. With this subject, Courbet inaugurated the genre of the snowy landscape, until then little practiced in France, but which would later become the obligatory passage of the Impressionist generation: Monet, Renoir, Whistler, close to Courbet, but also Pissarro, Sisley, Caillebotte and even Gauguin tried their hand at it. It is also, by its freedom of subject and its non-conformism, the theme that announces the advent of the modern painter, guided not by academic codes but by his own sensitivity. The famous critic Théodore Duret, defender of Courbet and the Impressionists, and who was one of the first owners of the present work, was not mistaken."