Gustave Courbet (French, 1819-1877)
Property from the Rothschild Art Foundation
Gustave Courbet (French, 1819-1877)

Le Ruisseau de Plaisir-Fontaine

Gustave Courbet (French, 1819-1877)
Le Ruisseau de Plaisir-Fontaine
oil on canvas
21 ½ x 25 ¾ in. (54.6 x 65.4 cm.)
Painted in 1865.
C. C. King, Washington DC.
His sale; Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, 22 October 1952, lot 80, as La Loue pres d'Ornans.
with Acquavella Galleries, New York.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, New York, 13 February 1985, lot 16.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
R. Fernier, La vie et l'oeuvre de Gustave Courbet, catalogue raisonné, Lausanne and Paris, 1977, vol. II, supplément, pp. 254-255, no. 4, illustrated.
Baltimore, Walters Art Museum, Courbet/Not Courbet, 16 September 2006 – 11 March 2007.

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Lot Essay

Although Courbet is perhaps most famous for his nudes, portraits and figural paintings, it is in his landscapes, such as Le ruisseau de Plaisir-Fontaine, that the personality of the artist and his relationship to his subject is most clearly demonstrated. 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 countryside and this love for the distinctive landscape of the Franche-Comté is clearly evident in his paintings which depict the region, a subject he returned to throughout his career.
Courbet's landscapes are sensually perceived manifestations of his idea of the vitality and dynamism of the countryside itself. This is demonstrated through the materiality of the actual painting - 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 paintings from dark to light, bringing the painting to life the same way sunlight brightens the greens of the forest from almost black, 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.
In many of Courbet's landscapes, including the present work, the artist found that nature was so dramatic in its own right there was little need for figures. The rock formations along the rushing stream are more alive and dynamic than any figure. The water flows and is ever changing; the clouds move across the sky. The land itself has a physiognomy, like the features of a sitter's face, and Courbet has presented the viewer with a lovingly painted portrait of the strange beauty of the area that was his childhood home.

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