Gustave Courbet
(Ornans, 1819-1877, La-Tour-de-Peilz)
Winter Landscape, ca. 1866
Oil on canvas, 73 x 92 cm
Signed lower left: G. Courbet
Fernier 563
When Courbet rambles with his boyhood friend Urbain Cuenot in the forests of Ornans, where he frequently visits, he brings back as a painter nearly as much booty as the hunter. Courbet is a keen and precise observer of the forest and its game. Being a passionate swimmer, he is drawn to water and the sea, and as a hunter, to the forest; and so the painter is closer to concrete reality. He is outdoors in all seasons. In winter he is alone with the silent majesty of the landscape, and becomes its interpreter. In numerous winter landscapes, where he has affinities to Jacob Ruisdael and the School of Fontainebleau, Courbet's blue shadows in sunny snowscapes presage the winter scenes of a Monet, Pissarro and Sisley; here again he is the prototype and pioneer of the next generation of artists. His preferred instrument, especially for the winter landscapes, is the spatula, with which he invests thawing snow with an almost palpable quality.
Meier-Graefe rebuked Courbet (Courbet, Munich 1921, p. 52) for putting deer in these landscapes as stage props. In fact, they do not quite belong here; they are the product of a draughtsman, and do not go well with the broad robust brushwork of the landscape, but they possess the idyllic quality of genre painting, which conflicts with the cold grandeur of nature.