The changing seasons provided Courbet with a wide and diverse range of subjects for his landscape paintings with his winter landscapes standing out as the most memorable. Indeed, no 19th century artist captured the feeling of winter, evoking the cold, and the texture of snow and ice more successfully than Gustave Courbet. Throughout his career, the snowy terrain around Ornans in his native Franche-Comté served as the backdrop for many of his most well-known winter scenes. Courbet painted crystalline, icy landscapes mostly devoid of any human presence, and when he introduced a living creature, it was usually a fox, a stag or a hunter tracking his prey.
In a snow covered forest, under a giant tree, a doe sits by her sleeping fawn under the watchful eye of an alert and powerful stag. These snowy landcapes were among the favorites of collectors of Courbet's hunting genre paintings and gained him a particular reputation in the 1860's. Courbet's forest visions evoke calmness and solitude, a personal glimpse into the habitat of a creature in his natural habitat. Courbet himself a huntsman, with a passion that was enhanced by several hunting trips to German reserves, found peace in the forest. There has been speculation that Courbet's hunting themes suggest underlying political messages - 'the chase' being compared to allegories of political persecution.
This work has been examined and authenticated by Jean-Jacques Fernier.