Courbet’s “the Stone Breakers”

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Courbet (1819-1877) is a realistic painter, in that a majority of his work is about everyday scenes, often depicting peasants and working people in rural areas. Howerver, Courbet is also an artist who challenged the traditional painting in the middle of the 19th century. Courbet introduced a new kind of realism, which focused on a rugged depiction of nature and people rather than an idealized and artificial one. Most paintings of the time showed wealthy people, whereas Courbet who was politically involved in socialist causes, applied his political beliefs to art. (Crapo: 240-241) Crapo writes that for Courbet “realism posed a direct challenge to the aesthetic of the academic painters. It meant the unadorned depiction of everyday scenes and people and entailed, on the part of the artist, involvement in the life of his times.” (Crapo: 241) The artist was not only to represent new ideas in his work, but also to use the work as a way to transform what he sees to the society. (Crapo: 241) As Crapo writes, early in his career, Courbet established a positive relationship with Louis-Napoleon, who can be considered a bourgeois rather than a revolutionary leader. (Crapo: 242) The leader gave Courbet the second prize for a work called After dinner at Ornans(figure2)which was painted the same year as The Stone Breakers. This was a great stroke of luck for a painter just newly arrived in Paris, to get an award from the nation’s President. As Crapo writes, this relationship would continue but be problematic in nature. The President turned to young painters like Courbet to help wage a propaganda war against a possible Royalist coup(Crapo, 1995). Courbet was very disappointed in the government’s turn to conservatives to consolidate power, and many of his works of the period created shock not only in the elite of society but among fellow artists. (Crapo, 1995) The Stone Breakers was painted when Courbet was only 28 years old. He made it when he went to visit his parents...
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