View of the Mediterranean at Maguelonne, 1858
Gustave Courbet (1819-1877)
Gustave Courbet was one of the most important representatives of Realism, an art movement which chose to portray everyday reality and ordinary people instead of grand mythological or historical scenes. The chief innovation was that these ‘commonplace’ situations and objects were no longer of secondary importance: they now took centre stage and were often depicted in large format. This canvas, for example, shows a small area of beach with some rocks and a calm sea; there is no drama or human presence.
However, the technique is spectacular: Courbet has used a palette knife to apply the paint in broad sweeps; the ground shows through in many areas of the sky, creating the effect of an endless space with a suggestion of soft evening light.