Courbet: A Dream of Modern Art
Edited by Klaus Herding, Max Hollein. Text by Bettina Erche, Sylvain Amic.
The intertwined stories of Realism and modernism begin with the great innovations of Gustave Courbet (1819-1877). Realism sought to record the messiness, poverty and brute facts of everyday life in urban and rural France, against the restrictions of religion and class and the high-flown emotion of the Romantic painters. Courbet's "Burial at Ornans" is a classic instance of Courbet's stance: it depicts a funeral in rural Ornans, and uses the occasion's actual participants, instead of models, portraying them entirely without sentiment, and on a scale usually reserved for royal subjects. But in his portraits, landscapes, drawings and still lifes, Courbet frequently suggested a more meditative, inward-looking realm, somewhat removed from his declarations of social realities, and revealed in such works his virtuoso touch and formal brilliance. Gustave Courbet: A Dream of Modern Art introduces this "other" Courbet, the painter whose vision of nature and formal preoccupations were later inherited by CÚzanne and Picasso, and further built on by the Symbolists and Surrealists. With over 200 color reproductions of the French Realist's work, as well as essays by Sylvain Amic and Bettina Erche, this volume acts as a welcome counterweight to the Courbet we thought we already knew, further complicating and enriching our understanding of one of the most influential European painters any century has produced.