Gustave Courbet (French, 1819-1877)
Gustave Courbet (French, 1819-1877)

Rivière et falaise

Gustave Courbet (French, 1819-1877)
Rivière et falaise
signed 'G. Courbet.' (lower left)
oil on canvas
21¼ x 25½ in. (54 x 64.8 cm.)
Painted circa 1865.
Collection Mazarov, Drouot, Paris, 13 May 1890 (as Rivière en Foret).
Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 3 April 1990, lot 257.
Milan, Compagnia del Disegno, Gustave Courbet, 1988.
Turin, Molle Antone Lliana, Courbet e l'Informale, December 1988 - February 1989.

Lot Essay

Courbet was descended from a family whose rapid economic and social ascendancy was specifically tied to the land. Courbet himself had emotional ties to his native land and this love for the landscape of the Franche-Comte is clearly evident in his landscape paintings.

'If Courbet's roots in the Franche-Comté played a significant role in his art generally, the region was the guiding force, his true muse, in his landscape painting. It was associated with an independent, somewhat savage spirit and a rugged primal energy - characteristics that critics associated with both Courbet's personality and his art. Painting his native landscape was a kind of autobiography, an extended self-portraiture. There was a general sense that the dramatic nature of the region's topography, its steep valleys and stony protrusions, determined the originality of Courbet's painting' (M. Morton, Courbet and the Modern Landscape, Los Angeles, 2006, p. 55).

Courbet's landscapes are sensually perceived manifestations of his idea of the vitality and dynamism of the landscape itself. This is demonstrated through the materiality of the actual painting and just as Courbet's relationship with the land is physical, so is the process of transferring that vision onto canvas. Courbet used dark grounds to prime his canvas, learned from the Dutch Old Masters in the Louvre, and built his landscapes from dark to light, bringing the painting to life the same way sunlight brightens the greens of the forest from almost back, to emerald, to chartreuse. He painted with a brush, but also used a palette knife to capture the solidity of the Jurassic rock formations and sometimes used rags, sponges and even his fingers in order to create the visceral quality of the mass, or weight of forms in nature.

This work has been authenticated by Jean-Jacques Fernier and will be included in his forthcoming Courbet catalogue raisonné.

This work has been examined and authenticated by Sarah Faunce and will be included in her forthcoming Courbet catalogue raisonné.

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