Courbet was descended from a family whose rapid economic and social ascendancy was specifically tied to the land, and his landscapes are sensually perceived manifestations of his idea of the vitality and dynamism of the landscape itself. This is demonstrated through the material quality of the actual painting process - just as Courbet's relationship with the land is physical, so is the process of transferring that vision to canvas. Courbet used dark grounds to prime his canvas, a technique learned from studying the Old Masters in the Louvre, and built his landscapes up from dark to light, bringing the painting to life the same way sunlight brightens the greens of a 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 rock formations and sometimes even sponges, rags and his own 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 self-sustaining that there was little need for figures. The formidable structure of the Château de Thoraise works in harmony with the volume of the stone cliffs which are so much a part of the landscape around Ornans, and which feature predominantly in so many of the artist's landscapes.
The Château de Thoraise, about fifteen kilometers southwest kilometers of Besançon, overlooks the course of the river Doubs.
We are grateful to Sarah Faunce for confirming the authenticity of this work. It will be included in her forthcoming catalogue raisonné of Courbet's paintings.