A Realist, 1865

Thomas Couture (1815-1879)

  • Oil on Canvas, 46 x 38 cm
  • Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam*

This painting can be viewed as a painted caricature of Realism. The French artist Thomas Couture used the canvas to criticise the new direction in painting, whose adherents preferred everyday, and sometimes trivial, subjects, to literary or historical themes. This particular realist has ‘demeaned’ himself to such an extent that he is willing to portray a pig, a symbol of stupidity. Insignificant, everyday objects hang on the wall while the painter displays scant respect for classical culture: he is seated on a sculpted head of the Greek god Zeus. Couture himself generally painted more exalted subjects, in a style better suited to the academic tradition.

*Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, purchased with the support of the Vincent van Gogh Foundation and the Vereniging Rembrandt.

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