The life and work of Gustave Courbet (1819–1877) were defined by his rejection of the academic painting tradition and conservative politics in France. His work marks the beginning of a development that continues to shape our understanding of art today. Courbet’s ability to play with the expectations of the viewer, his accents of color, his use of hidden references to classical iconography, and, above all, the emphasis that he placed on his individuality as an artist have made him a key figure in the period of transition from traditional to modern painting. His famous work, L’origine du monde (The Origin of the World, 1866), is the focus of this opulent volume, and it is framed by no less spectacular self-portraits, depictions of women, landscapes, seascapes, and winter images dating from later in his career. Examining the broad spectrum of Courbet’s oeuvre, the publication includes the most recent research on the artist’s strategy of ambiguity and his revolutionary use of color.
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