As anyone fresh out of Art History 101 will tell you, Gustave Courbet was nothing short of one of the most important figures in 19th century realist painting. Works such as his The Stone Breakers, The Peasants of Flagey, and A Burial at Ornans represent a significant change of those themes deemed worthy of exhibition in the Paris Salon, and for that reason they drew both praise and denunciations from critics and public alike.
That aside, he could also paint some really nifty waves.
His clouds are nice, too.
I encountered my first Courbet wave painting, his Mediterranean, a few years ago during my tour of The Phillips Collection. Making my way through European gallery on the top floor, I found myself absorbed in a small, unassuming canvas depicting a lonely seascape. I enjoyed the darkness of the water as well as the rough texture of the foam, as if it were carved out of rock. After admiring the piece for several minutes, I observed the panel to learn it was by none other than Gustave Courbet. I have to admit, this took me by surprise. I mean, the brushstrokes and palate of colors were unmistakably his style, but up until that point I’d exclusively associated his name with social realism and was completely unaware of not only his seascapes but also his many beautiful still lifes and landscapes.
Anyway, I’ve been a fan of his waves ever since.
On that note, if I had the choice of having to see A Burial at Ornans or Stormy Sea on my wall for the rest of eternity, I’d gladly choose the latter.
Oh, and I've included his Stormy Sea behind the cut.