Paintings by Gustave Courbet


French impressionist Gustave Courbet (1828-1885) applied the idea of direct observation to his subject selection.

Working in a dark palette and a rough style that opposed the standard convention of Salon finish, Courbet rejected the established artist's repertoire drawn from history and mythology. He preferred subjects that recorded his own experience: the working people of his native village Ornans and scenes of his life as an artist.

Courbet became an outspoken advocate of "realism," a modern approach that was frank in style and unsentimental in expression. The links below will take you to paintings of wonderful seascapes by Gustave Courbet found in this article.

  • The Edge of the Sea at Palavas: The Edge of the Sea at Palavas is a great example of Gustave Courbet's usage of the dark palette to portray life honestly. Learn about the realistic The Edge of the Sea at Palavas.
  • The Calm Sea: Painting en plein air at the Trouville shore, Gustave Courbet beautifully captured the movement of the clouds over the still sea. Learn about The Calm Sea.

Go to the next page to see a beautiful image of Courbet's painting The Edge of the Sea at Palavas. For more on Impressionist paintings, artists, and art history, see:

The Edge of the Sea at Palavas by Gustave Courbet

The Edge of the Sea at Palavas by Gustave Courbet is an oil on canvas (10-3/8 x 18-1/8 inches) that is housed in Musée Fabre, Montpellier, France.
The Edge of the Sea at Palavas by Gustave Courbet is an oil on canvas (10-3/8 x 18-1/8 inches) that is housed in Musée Fabre, Montpellier, France.

As evident in The Edge of the Sea at Palavas (1854), Gustave Courbet refused to idealize his subjects or his aesthetic. He painted a blunt image of modern life in a frank and rough style that came to be known as realism.

Courbet rose to public attention during the brief democratic rule of the Second Republic (1848-51), when the restrictive Salon policies were relaxed. He maintained an independent identity as an artist as the art world returned to more conservative standards during the Second Empire (1851-71).

Light and movement were enormously important factors in impressionist compositions. Go to the next page to see a vivid example of light and movement in another seascape by Gustave Courbet, The Calm Sea.

For more on Impressionist paintings, artists, and art history, see:

The Calm Sea by Gustave Courbet

Gustave Courbet's The Calm Sea is an oil on canvas (23-1/2 x 28-3/8 inches) that is on display at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Gustave Courbet's The Calm Sea is an oil on canvas (23-1/2 x 28-3/8 inches) that is on display at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

In Gustave Courbet's The Calm Sea (1869), the view of calm waters is seen from the coastline at Trouville. It demonstrates the fresh color quality and careful observation associated with plein air painting.

With his easel set up on the shore, Courbet was able to record the light and the moving clouds over the serene sea. The result is a work that evokes atmospheric sensation rather than detailed observation.

For more on Impressionist paintings, artists, and art history, see:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Debra N. Mancoff is an art historian and lecturer and the author of numerous books on nineteenth-century European and American paintings. She is a scholar in residence at the Newberry Library.