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Artist: Courbet, Gustave 5 of 7 Previous Previous | Next Next

Peasant Girl with a Scarf, c. 1849

Gustave Courbet

French, 1819-1877
Oil on canvas
23-5/8 x 28-3/4 in. (60 x 73 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation
© Norton Simon Art Foundation

On view

During the 1840s, Gustave Courbet began to establish the fundamental tenets of his Realism. Drawing on the materiality of paint, the rural landscape from his home town of Ornans, and the physicality of the family and friends that surrounded him, Courbet dismissed the traditions of history, religious, and allegorical painting inculcated by the École des Beaux-Arts. Instead, he turned to the concrete world that lay before him. Closely tied to the political and economic upheaval in France during this decade, Courbet’s ambitions aligned him with the working people rather than political or social elite, and in so doing his art of everyday people doing everyday things was constantly seen as a political statement. "Peasant Girl with a Scarf" is a moderate but acute expression of this vision. A ruddy cheeked, heavy boned woman is placed in a thickly painted wooded landscape. Her position, up against the picture plane and thus in very close contact with the viewer, is nevertheless ambiguous—is she leaning or sitting?—and her relationship to the landscape is therefore also confused. She seems overly large in her setting, and the exaggerated materiality of a figure within a landscape would return over and again in Courbet’s work. It was this assertion of the vernacular combined with the dense application of paint that both marked his success and brought about his notoriety.

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Artist: Courbet, Gustave 5 of 7 Previous Previous | Next Next