Sunday, August 23, 2009

Gustave Courbet ~ Self-Portraits of a Handsome Man

Much has been written about Gustave Courbet. More than a dozen books with Courbet as the main title are on the first two pages of an Amazon search with his name. Many more articles can be found by doing a Google search. Some of the most recent articles have dealt with the 2008 retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The Met had chosen to display Courbet's work thematically as opposed to chronologically. As a result the very first gallery was filled with self-portraits Courbet had painted after his arrival in Paris. Courbet was a young man searching for himself. There were so many of these portraits you could almost hear the critics of the day complaining “Courbet waving, Courbet walking…Courbet everywhere….”

Courbet painted himself as many different people. He would have us think he was in despair in The Desperate Man (shown above). Desperate is thought to have been painted shortly after he had moved to Paris to become an artist. We are seeing him at his frazzled and handsome best, somewhat like an early Johnny Depp. A similar crazed look shows up a few years later in Mad with Fear (shown below).

During that same period though Courbet portrayed himself as an artist in The Sculptor and as a game player in The Draughts Player.

Courbet with a Black Dog was accepted by the Salon in 1844 and gave Courbet the official recognition and that greatly pleased him.

Also in 1844 he painted Lovers in the Country. Here you can see Courbet with his love at the moment, dancing in the countryside.

Man with a Leather Belt shows Courbet stroking his beard with the back of his hand. His other hand is taking hold of a rather large belt buckle on his waist. Check out those bedroom eyes. Walking around a gallery with this many Courbets, you know you're being seduced into looking for more portraits. And there are more.

For example, in Le Guitarrero, Courbet painted himself as a musician. Since it seems well known that he didn't know how to play the violoncello, it's questionable if he knew how to play the guitar. The Violoncellist painted in 1847 is our piece of the week here at Fifty Two Pieces.

The Man with a Pipe shows Courbet in 1849. Here, he is looking down his nose towards his pipe but also probably at the art critics who were not always too kind.

In 1854, Courbet repainted The Wounded Man. X-rays show that Courbet painted over the image of a woman who he had been embracing.

Also in 1854 Courbet painted Bonjour Monsieur Courbet showing himself meeting with Alfred Bruyas, a wealthy collector. Much can be said about how Courbet painted himself and these other two men and their dog. However, we can say for certainty is that Courbet painted outside because he's carrying a portable easel.

One of the last self-portraits that Courbet painted is Portrait of the Artist at Sainte-Pelagie. Here Courbet is sitting in prison, smoking a pipe, wearing a beret and a red tie around his neck. Courbet had been imprisoned for his responsibility in the destruction of the Vendome column. He has a pensive look, not quite the Johnny Depp good looks and swagger from the early years.


rubens super fan said...

The Desperate Man looks just like Johnny Depp

Anonymous said...

The Man with a Pipe looks like Thom Yorke