The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

return to surnames beginning with ''

Jean-Désiré-Gustave Courbet, 1819-1877

Nationality: French
Date of Birth: 1819.06.10
Place of Birth: Ornans
Date of Death: 1877.12.01
Place of Death: La Tour-de-Pielz, Switzerland


Jean-Désiré-Gustave Courbet was a French painter and writer who came from a farming background in Franche-Comté.


Courbet was one of the central figures within the French Realist movement, and in 1855, when JW arrived in Paris, he was holding his own one-man show, his Pavilion du Réalisme, in defiance of the Salon and directly opposite the entrance of the official exhibition. Although entering the studio of Charles Gleyre, JW became friendly with many of the pupils of Courbet including Henri Fantin-Latour and Edgar Degas. JW's works of the late 1850s with their heavy impasto and low-life subject matter and his seascapes of the early 1860s show the impact that Courbet had on his art.

In the early 1860s Courbet and JW became good friends and Courbet painted a couple of portraits of JW's mistress Joanna Hiffernan, La Belle Irlandaise and Jo, femme d'Irelande. However, at this time JW's work began to move away from the Realism of the older artist towards Aestheticism, as evidenced by his White Girl paintings. In 1867 in a letter to Fantin-Latour JW expressed the wish to have been a pupil of Ingres and declared, 'Courbet and his influence were disgusting'.

However, Courbet's 'Manifestoes' may well have influenced JW's later concern for self-promotion, particularly his relationship with the press. In 1874, following in the footsteps of Courbet, he set up a one-man show at No. 48 Pall Mall in opposition to the Royal Academy.


Champfleury, 'Du réalism: Lettre à Madame Sand', L'Artiste, n.s. 5, vol. 16, 1855, pp. 1-5; Castagnary, J.-A., Les Libres Propos, Paris, 1864; Mantz, P., 'Gustave Courbet', Gazette des Beaux-Arts, vol. 17, 1878, pp. 514-27, vol. 18, 1878, pp. 17-29, 371-84; Castagnary, J.-A., Salons (1857-1870), 2 vols, Paris, 1892; Castagnary, J.-A., 'Fragments d'un livre sur Courbet', Gazette des Beaux-Arts, n.s. 2, vol. 5, 1911, pp. 5-20, vol. 6, 1912, pp. 488-97, vol. 7, 1912, pp. 19-30; Monneret, S., L'Impressionisme et son époque, Paris, 1978-79; Chu, P. ten-Doesschate (ed.), Courbet's Letters, Chicago, 1992; Herding, Klaus, 'Gustave Courbet', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, (accessed 12 April 2002).