Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Violincellist by Courbet

Courbet, the French painter of the mid 19th century painted this self portrait in 1847. Courbet liked to paint himself, in this case as a musician, in other cases as a poet, a peasant, a troubadour. X-rays of this painting show that the figures position and gesture changed over the course of the painting. He didn't paint from a model, but from his mind. The musical score in the middle right of the canvas is on a different canvas altogether. There is a second Violincellist in the National Museum of Art in Stockholm, without the music and a bit smaller. The painting is above all else, dark. Looking at it in the gallery I crane my neck here and there to see more deeply into it, but the deepest place is the expression on this man's face. His hands are knotted like twigs. His eyes look right through me, what is that song he plays?

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