Magazine article School Arts

Nature's Gifts: Realist Painting

Magazine article School Arts

Nature's Gifts: Realist Painting

Article excerpt

Gustave Courbet (1819-1877). Sunset, Vevey, Switzerland, 1874. Oil on canvas, 25 3/4 x 32" (65 x 81 cm). Gift of George Hoadly. 1887.5.

About the Art

Although Courbet may be known today for his images of French workers, he also painted many landscapes, especially in the last years of his life. Sunset, Vevey, Switzerland was painted while Courbet was living in that country and town during his political exile.

When he worked on landscapes, Courbet enjoyed painting outdoors rather than in his studio. He would set up his easel in front of his chosen view and paint directly on the canvas in oils, often using a palette knife to spread the thick paint.

This painting depicts a rocky shore on Lake Geneva at sunset. Rather than focusing on the intangible effects of light and atmosphere, Courbet has concentrated on the physical elements of the environment, such as the stones, cliffs, and surf, His use of a very dark palette for the rocks in the foreground is visually striking against the cooler and lighter tones of the water and setting sun. The different textures of the application of paint in these areas help to differentiate the two sections: the rocks are formed by thick application of paint using a palette knife to create their rough surface; the paint in the background is applied much more thinly

About the Artist

Gustave Courbet is considered the founder of Realism, a mid nineteenth-century art movement which advocated the straightforward representation of subject matter without idealization. …

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