Gustave Courbet

French, 1819–1877


Iconoclastic and influential Realist painter Gustave Courbet is often regarded as the 19th century’s pioneering artist. Courbet rejected academic traditionalism and bourgeois convention, seeking conflict both artistically and socially with an aim to, as he has said, “change the public’s taste and way of seeing.” Instead of idealizing his subjects like his Romanticist contemporaries, he dedicated himself to showing things as they are, bluntly addressing themes like rural poverty, as in The Stone Breakers (1849), and human sexuality; his erotically portrayed nudes were received with scandal and even police attention. Courbet also emphasized the painting process, visible brush and palette work displacing the customarily seamless varnished canvas. Younger artists including Édouard Manet and James McNeill Whistler, among many others, enthusiastically adopted these technical liberties. By exhibiting independently of the government-sponsored Paris Salon, Courbet paved the way for upcoming avant-garde movements, particularly Impressionism.

Career Highlights
Learn more about artist insights.
High auction record
$15m, Christie's, 2015
Solo show at a major institution
Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, and 1 more
Group show at a major institution
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and 6 more
Collected by a major institution
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., and 2 more
Reviewed by a major art publication
frieze, and 1 more
Articles Featuring Gustave Courbet
What Sold at FIAC
Oct 21st, 2019
The Invention of Photography Emboldened Artists to Portray Overt Sexuality
Mar 18th, 2019
Probing Gustave Courbet’s Inner Thoughts in “The Desperate Man”
Nov 20th, 2018
5 Famous Artworks That Were Accidentally Destroyed
Aug 18th, 2017
Navigate right