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La Victoire de Samothrace, Unknown, 190 BC

Courbet

1850

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While the Louvre covers art from Antiquity to the 19th century, the Orsay Museum picks up where it leaves off.

It's particularly famous for its Impressionist paintings.

So this painting might seem a little dull.

But it marked a real shift in history of art - introducing the Realist movement.

The painting is huge (3 x 6m).

It represents a funeral in Courbet's, native town, near Besançon, in Eastern France.

All the people represented are local townspeople.

Representing a realistic, everyday scene on such a large scale was considered scandalous at the time.

Indeed artists were supposed to represent historical or allegorical scenes.

Critics accused Courbet of painting the ugly, the vulgar, the trivial…

Moreover the Revolution of 1848 had seen protests sweep through Europe and topple monarchies.

So showing people from different classes coming together was also very provocative.

However Courbet was radical in that he believed that the artist's role was to represent what was true and authentic.

Choosing the subject of the funeral was also highly symbolic.

It represented the death of Academism and Romanticism - the dominant art movements of the time - and the bursting of Realism onto the scene.

La Joconde, de Vinci (1519)

Next:

The Painter's Studio

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