Gustave Courbet, The Wounded Man, ca. 1866 Oil on canvas, 80 x 100 cm, Belvedere Museum, Vienna.
Gustave Courbet, 1819-1877, was a French painter and leader of the Realist movement. Courbet rebelled against the Romantic painting of his day, turning to everyday events for his subject matter. His huge shadowed canvases with their solid groups of figures, such as The Artist’s Studio, drew sharp criticism from the establishment. His work, however, exerted much influence on the modern movements that followed him. He offered succeeding generations of painters not so much a new technique as a whole new philosophy. The aim of his painting was not, as previous schools had maintained, to embellish or idealize reality but to reproduce it accurately. Courbet succeeded in ridding his painting of artistic clichés, contrived idealism, and timeworn models. Self-portraits occupied a central place in Gustave Courbet's youthful works. They were aesthetic and moral statements in which Courbet both claimed the heritage of the old Masters, the Dutch and Venetians in particular and indulged in romantic dramatisation by investing the romantic theme of the artist made heroic by suffering. The original picture painted in 1844 was reworked by Courbet ten years later, at the end of a love affair. The woman, who was originally leaning on the artist's shoulder, has been replaced by a sword and Courbet has added a red bloodstain on his shirt over his heart. This painting in Vienna's Belvedere Museum is a copy of the original that is in the collection of Musée d'Orsay in Paris.
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