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Un barrage près d’Ornans, or L’Écluse de la Loue

Un barrage près d’Ornans, or L’Écluse de la Loue
signed and dated '61/ G. Courbet.' (lower left)
oil on canvas
23 ¼ x 28 ¾ in. (59 x 73 cm.)
M.P.A. Chéramy; Georges Petit, Paris, 5-7 May 1908, lot 143, as Le Barrage.
Me Lair-Dubreuil C. P.
with Henri Haro & Georges Petit, no. 143, as Le Barrage, where purchased by
M. Kélékian.
Montaignac Collection, Paris, by 1977.
with Brame & Lorenceau, Paris, where purchased by the present owner.
J. Bruno, Les Misères des Gueux, ouvrage entièrement illustré par G. Courbet (reproductions de ses œuvres), Paris, 1872, p. 120.
G. Riat, Gustave Courbet, Paris, 1906, p. 217.
R. Fernier, La vie et l'oeuvre de Gustave Courbet, catalogue raisonné, Paris and Lausanne, 1978, vol. I, pp. 170-171, no. 282, illustrated, (with dimensions 65 x 81 cm).
P. Courthion, Tout l’oeuvre peint de Courbet, Paris, 1987, no. 271.
P. Cabanne, Les Peintres de plein air, Paris 1998, p. 136, illustrated.
A. Pennasilico, Gustave Courbet e il suo tempo, Verona, 2008, pp. 12-13, no. 5, illustrated.
Ornans, Musée Gustave Courbet, Courbet en Privé, 8 July – 22 October 2000, no. 124.

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Alastair Plumb
Alastair Plumb Specialist, Head of Sale, European Art

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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 L’Écluse de la Loue, 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 canvases, 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 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 water flows and is ever changing; the clouds move across the sky. This is juxtaposed with the man-made building to the left of the composition.

The present work is a larger version of Courbet's composition for L’Écluse de la Loue (1865) which is in the collection of the Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin.

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