Friday, March 07, 2008

Gustave Courbet at the Met

The Courbet retrospective is wonderful. Some 130 works, giving a good sense of his oeuvre. I came out of it feeling like I met a major major artist. I was struck by the extent to which his subjects affected his admirers like Cezanne: the portraits, the mountains, the female bathers, the apples. The rooms are organized in terms of genres, and Corbert painted in many genres: self-portraits, portraits, large group paintings, landscapes, seascapes (which he called "landscapes of the sea), nudes, still life, hunting scenes. The painting of Jo, Whistler's lover, is a portrait, but is also a genre piece with its suggestion of Pre-Raphaelite maidens.

Jo, the Beautiful Irishwoman, 1866

The seascapes are powerful. They threaten with real, primitive force, as if the waves are about the crash over me, and draw me out to the sea.

The Wave, 1869

And most moving, in a most precise way, is his painting of the trout, displayed in the last room of the retrospective. You can still see the line, and the hook in its mouth.

The Trout, 1872

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