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


Gustave Courbet (French, 1819-1877)
signed ‘G. Courbet.‘ (lower left)
oil on canvas
16 ¾ x 24 1/8 in. (42.5 x 61.4 cm.)
Painted in 1869.
with Berheim Jeune, Paris.
Acquired from the above by Durand-Ruel, Paris, 2nd October 1889.
Acquired from the above by Durand-Ruel, New York, 1889.
Acquired from the above by Catholina Lambert, Belle Vista Castle, Paterson, New Jersey, 18th November 1899.
Her sale; American art Galleries, New York, 12th February 1916, lot 109.
Acquired at the above sale by Joseph Stransky, New York.
Dr. Peter Nathan, Zurich.
Acquired from the above in the late 1990's by a private collection, Italy.
R. Fernier, La Vie et l'OEuvre de Gustave Courbet, II, Lausanne, Paris, 1978, pp. 88-89, no. 705 (illustrated).
P. Courthion, L’Opera Completa di G. Courbet, Milan, 1985, p. 112, no. 678 (illustrated).
Ornans, Musée Gustave Courbet, Courbet en Privé, 8 July – 22 October 2000, no. 101.
Castiglioncello, Centro per l’Arte Diego Martelli – Castello Paquini, Da Courbet a Fattori: I princìpi del vero, 16 July – 1 November 2005, no. 22.

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Alastair Plumb
Alastair Plumb

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Lot Essay

In the late summer of 1869, Courbet travelled to Étretat, a fishing village famous for its towering coastal cliffs with their rock arches carved out by the relentless sea. The artist had recently finished a painting season at Trouville, where he worked alongside Monet, Boudin and Daubigny. Courbet was completely absorbed by the sea, painting a total of twenty-nine canvases during his sojourn at Étretat, depicting gentle and undulating waves as they rolled out to sea, or violently crashing along the shoreline.

The present work depicts the rising sea, choppy and filled with whitecaps, with a fringe of foam advancing towards the viewer. Courbet has perfectly captured the power and motion of a swelling wave. He has imitated the look of the sea through a virtuoso handling of thick, overlapping layers of paint, most likely applied with his trademark palette knife.

Courbet’s marines, or Paysages de mer as he called them, are simply the representation of a natural phenomenon, captured in all its fury and splendour. As Zola remarked of one of Courbet's wave paintings: 'Do not expect a symbolic work in the manner of Cabanel or Baudry - some nude woman, with skin as pearly as a shell, who bathes in a sea of agate. Courbet has simply painted a wave.' (E. Zola, 'L'Ecole francaise de peinture a l'Exposition de 1878', Emile Zola, Salons, ed. Hemmings and Niess, Geneva, 1959, p. 201).

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