FIFA 2015: Looking at Gustave Courbet’s The Painter’s Studio as a puzzle and a history lesson

Caricature of painter Gustave Courbet from the documentary film Les Petits Secrets Des Grands Tableaux – Courbet, L’atelier Du Peintre

Caricature of painter Gustave Courbet from the documentary film Les Petits Secrets Des Grands Tableaux – Courbet, L’atelier Du Peintre

 

French painter Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) was admired by some and mocked by others. He was self taught, which earned him the scorn of academicians. He hobnobbed with the rich and powerful though he sided with workers and disadvantaged.

The 26 minute film takes a quick look at Courbet’s life and works before turning to his large and crowded work with the long name – The Painter’s Studio: A Real Allegory of a Seven Year Phase in my Artistic and Moral Life.

The Painter's Studio: A Real Allegory of a Seven Year Phase in my Artistic and Moral Life, by Gustave Courbet.

The Painter’s Studio: A Real Allegory of a Seven Year Phase in my Artistic and Moral Life, by Gustave Courbet.

Courbet created it for a salon at the 1855 Paris World Fair (or Exposition Universelle des produits de l’Agriculture, de l’Industrie et des Beaux-Arts de Paris 1855 to give its full name). The jury refused to accept this painting, though eleven of his other works were shown. (These days, the painting hangs in the Musée d’Orsay.)

In examining the many possible reasons for this refusal, the filmmakers tell us about the many styles that appear in the painting – portraits, still life, history painting – and the people in it, who include George Sand, Charles Baudelaire, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, and the Emperor Napoleon III himself. He had been elected president of France but later staged a coup d’etat and declared himself emperor. In the painting he is portrayed as a hunter wearing tall leather boots. Censorship was so strong at this time that the mere mention of “boots” could result in a prison sentence.

This film is filled with a wealth of detail and historical information.

Les Petits Secrets Des Grands Tableaux – Courbet, L’atelier Du Peintre will be shown as part of a double bill with Beatus: The Spanish Apocalypse, which is 90 minutes long, on Friday, March 27, 2015 at 1:30 p.m. at the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal – Maxwell-Cummings Auditorium, 1379 Sherbrooke St. W.

Les Petits Secrets Des Grands Tableaux – Courbet, L’atelier Du Peintre
France / 2014 / Color / 26 Min / French
Realisation: Clément Cogitore
Script: Thomas Cheysson, Elisabeth Couturier
Editing: Erwann Chabot, Julien Ngo Trong
Music: Roque Rivas
Narration: Clémentine Célarié
Producer(s): Sophie Goupil, Daniel Khamdamov
Production: Les Poissons Volants, ARTE France, Les petits secrets des grands tableaux
Distribution: ARTE France

The Festival International du Film sur l’Art, known as FIFA, runs until Sunday, March 29, 2015. Visit the web site www.artfifa.com for more information.

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