Gustave Courbet (French, 1819-1877)
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more Property from the Brooklyn Museum, sold to support museum collections
Gustave Courbet (French, 1819-1877)

Bords de la Loue avec rochers à gauche

Gustave Courbet (French, 1819-1877)
Bords de la Loue avec rochers à gauche
signed and dated 'G Courbet./68' (lower right)
oil on canvas
27 7/8 x 42 ¼ in. (70.8 x 107.3 cm.)
Anonymous sale; Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 5 December 1881, lot 6, as Les Rochers.
P. Barbédienne, Paris, by at least 1882.
His sale; Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 27 April 1885, lot 20, as Paysage; environs d'Ornans.
Martin Landelle, by at least 1899.
with Galerie Durand-Ruel, acquired directly from the above, 21 February 1899.
Charles Tyson Yerkes (1837-1905), Chicago, acquired directly from the above, 29 August 1900.
His sale; American Art Association, New York, 5-8 April 1910, lot 28, as The Silent River.
Louisine Havemeyer (1855-1929), New York, acquired at the above sale via Galerie Durand-Ruel acting as agent.
Horace Havemeyer (1886-1956), her son, and Doris Dick Havemeyer (1890-1982), his wife, New York, by descent.
Gifted by the above to the present owner, 1941.
H.O. Havemeyer Collection: Catalogue of Paintings, Prints, Sculpture and Objects, Portland, ME, 1931, p. 357, illustrated, as Landscape-The Silent River.
R. Fernier, La vie et l'œuvre de Gustave Courbet, catalogue raisonné, Paris and Lausanne, 1977-1978, vol. I, pp. 220-221, no. 396, illustrated (erroneously catalogued as undated and included under the section for 1864).
Splendid Legacy, The Havemeyer Collection, exh. cat., New York, 1993, pp. 315-316, no. 141, illustrated, as The Silent River.
Paris, École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts, Exposition des œuvres de Gustave Courbet, May 1882, p. 59, no. 71, as Paysage, bords de la Loue.
Tokyo, Daimaru Museum, The Barbizon Mood in France and America: European and American Paintings from the Brooklyn Museum of Art, 19 March-7 April 1998, also Fukuoka, Kitakyushu Municipal Museum of Art, 2 May-7 June 1998; Nagoya, Matsuzakaya Museum, 20 June-26 July 1998; Yamanashi, Kawaguchiko Municipal Museum of Art, 29 July-7 September 1998; Kyoto, Daimaru Museum, 10-21 September 1998; Osaka, Daimaru Museum, 23 September-12 October 1998, no. 17, as The Silent River.
Koriyama, Koriyama City Museum of Art, French and American Impressionist Works from the Collection of The Brooklyn Museum of Art, 28 April 2000-28 May 2001, also Asahikawa, Hokkaido Asahikawa Museum of Art, Sapporo, Museum of Contemporary Art; Tokyo, Isetan Museum of Art; Nagoya, Matuzakaya Art Museum; Kumamoto, Kumamoto Prefectural Museum of Art; Utsunomiya, Utsunomiya Museum of Art; Takamatsu, Takamatsu City Museum of Art, no. 51, as The Silent River.
Seoul, Seoul Arts Center Hangaram Art Museum, French and American Impressionists in the Brooklyn Museum, 2 June-3 September 2006, also Busan, Busan Museum, 8 September-17 December 2006, no. 33, as The Silent River.
New York, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Landscapes from the Age of Impressionism, 3 February-13 May 2007, also Sarasota, Ringling Museum of Art 15 June-16 September 2007; Raleigh, North Carolina Museum of Art, 21 October 2007-13 January 2008; Richmond, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 15 February-11 May 2008; Denver, Denver Art Museum, 13 June-7 September 2008; Portland, ME, Portland Museum of Art, 24 September 2008-4 January 2009; West Palm Beach, Norton Museum of Art, 7 February-10 May 2009; Flint, Flint Institute of Arts, 5 February-16 May 2010; Omaha, Joslyn Art Museum, 4 June-12 September 2010; San Antonio, McNay Art Museum, 6 October 2010-16 January 2011; Louisville, The Speed Art Museum, 4 February-22 May 2011; Sacramento, Crocker Art Museum, 11 June-18 September 2011; Akron, Akron Art Museum, 29 October 2011-5 February 2012, no. 21, as The Silent River.
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Lot Essay

Although perhaps best-known and most notorious for his enormous, public figural paintings, Gustave Courbet was throughout his long career first and foremost a landscape painter. In the preface to the catalogue for the posthumous Courbet exhibition held at the École des Beaux-Arts in 1882, Jules Castagnary stated, ‘[Courbet] discovered virgin territory where no one had yet to set foot, aspects and forms of landscape of which one could say were unknown before him. He climbed up to the free heights where the lungs expanded; he plunged into mysterious dens, he was curious about unnamed places, unknown retreats’.
Almost three-quarters of the artist’s oeuvre are landscapes. Courbet’s intimate knowledge of the landscape in and around his native Ornans in the Franche-Comté came from his meanderings through the forest and streams and from his hunting expeditions in the area. He understood the need to understand the countryside and wrote ‘To paint a landscape you have to know it. I know my country. I paint it!’
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 - 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 black, to emerald, to chartreuse. Throughout his career, Courbet used brushes, knives, sometimes rags and even his fingers to recreate natural processes that had taken millennia to evolve. This juxtaposition of the use of a completely modern technique to celebrate the pace of glacial time is quintessential Courbet.
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 quiet stream are more alive and dynamic than any figure. 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 his childhood land.
In Bords de la Loue avec rochers à gauche, Courbet explores the architecture of nature, reveling in the contrasts of the textures of the rocky outcroppings, stony cliffs, and gentle streams of his homeland. The landscape is cropped in such a way to draw the viewer into what is clearly a completely inaccessible natural domain. Here, Courbet utilizes his full arsenal of methods of paint application: the use of the palette-knife for smoother areas, flat brushes for the spare, dry leaves, thin delicate glazes painted atop thicker paint for the rock faces, scraped down paint layers to let the dark ground show through and create depth, and scoring the cliffs that rise above the river, done most likely with the back of the brush. The handling is enormously complex and carefully considered, belying the overall impression of spontaneity and freshness.
Courbet was at the same time an old master and a key figure in modernism. He was deeply rooted in artistic tradition and technique, and was particularly drawn to the work of Delacroix, Géricault, Prud’hon and the Dutch masters, while at the same time being violently opposed to tradition. Courbet’s art defies definition, but above all things it must be considered as the very beginning of 'modern' painting. Picasso, Cézanne and Monet all saw Courbet’s work in exhibitions in 1855, 1867 and 1882, and the impact of his landscapes on avant-garde painting practices extend well into the 20th century. Maier-Graefe regarded Courbet as the father of modern painting not only in France but also across Europe as well.
Courbet’s legacy is evidenced in the many instances of continuity between himself and the later artists who responded to his artistic achievement. Much has been written about Courbet’s influence on artists from the Impressionists through the Abstract expressionists, including Manet, Monet, Cézanne (fig. 1), Nolde, Pollock and de Kooning. Both Cézanne and de Kooning identified Courbet as a source of inspiration, but aside from the obvious textural references, Courbet’s importance to and influence upon subsequent generations can be understood in their visual vocabulary. Indeed, it is in the work of Gerhard Richter, working in the 21st century, that we can see Courbet’s technical legacy continued. Richter uses the same techniques developed by Courbet, including scraping the surface of the painting repeatedly, using the wrong end of the brush to achieve texture and sometimes peeling off the top layer of paint to expose the layer underneath. Richter uses unconventional tools, such as squeegies, to achieve effects similar to the sponges used by Courbet. It is clear that Courbet’s landscapes resonate strongly with artists working in the abstract. This is because although Courbet painted specific sites, such as the Loue River, his painting was not a strict adherence to what the landscape actually looked like. The experience of looking at a Courbet painting reveals how truly constructed, invented and imagined the paintings really are. It is in this artistic freedom from the real that Courbet’s legacy in the ensuing centuries can be situated and understood.
Bords de la Loue avec rochers à gauche boasts a distinguished provenance that connects it to one of the great American collectors of the 19th century. Purchased by Louisine Havemeyer in 1910, it was then bequeathed to her son, Horace Havemeyer, upon her death in 1929, who in turn gifted the painting to the Brooklyn Museum. Louisine and her husband, Henry Osborne Havemeyer, with the help of the American artist Mary Cassatt, built what is considered to be one of the most important collections of Impressionist art in America. The majority of the collection is now housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

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