Gustave Courbet
(Ornans, 1819-1877, La-Tour-de-Peilz)
Portrait of the Sculptor Leboeuf, 1863
Oil on canvas, 65 x 50 cm
Signed & dated lower left: 1863 Gustave Courbet
Fernier 355
The picture of Courbet as a portraitist leaves a confused impression. Official commissions for portraits which he accepted in the 1850s and 1860s, the period of his greatest artistic and social success, basically contradict his independent character; constraint becomes apparent, all the more so when he was not personally acquainted with the subject. But the case is clearly different with portraits of art dealers and collectors with whom he had common interests. The liveliest portraits are those of his friends from his home country, with whom he shared the joys of the hunt, of carousing and of amorous escapades. When the forty-four-year-old painter painted a portrait of the slightly younger sculptor and compatriot Louis-Joseph Lebœuf (born in 1823 in Lons-le-Saunier, died in 1867 in Paris), he is quite close to him; he identifies with the subject’s sound vitality, and can do without all fashionable accessories. Only the painter’s eye gloats over the bright red of the jacket and the flesh tints framed by the black of hair and beard against the pale-brown background. The sculptor Lebœuf, in 1861, did a statuette of the rugged Courbet as a wanderer, now in the Musée Courbet in Ornans.