Gustave Courbet

(1819 - 1877)
Gustave Courbet The Wave About 1869


Courbet was the great rebel of nineteenth-century French art. He rejected the established conventions of academic painting, with its emphasis on idealised historical and mythological subjects, in favour of real subjects from ordinary life. Courbet staged his own exhibition in his 'Pavilion of Realism' during the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1855 which established an important precedent for future independent shows. Many of his paintings were based on people and places in the Jura, the mountainous region of eastern France where Courbet was born. His later self-imposed exile in Switzerland followed his active role in the Paris Commune.

Glossary terms

  • Used generally for art that attempts to represent things as they appear. It specifically refers to a mid-19th century movement in France, led by Gustave Courbet, that rejected the sometimes obscure subject matter of academic painting in favour of more accessible scenes of everyday life.