DescriptionGUSTAVE COURBET (French 1819-1877)
Stream In The Forest, circa 1863
Oil on canvas
26-½ x 18-½ inches (66 x 41 cm)
Signed lower left: G. Courbet
New York, Salander-O'Reilly Galleries and Roslyn, New York, Nassau County Museum of Art, Courbet: Later Paintings, February-May 1998, no. 5, ill;
New York, Salander-O'Reilly Galleries, Nineteenth-Century European Paintings, February 4-March 1, 2003, no. 9, ill.;
New York, Salander-O'Reilly Galleries, Gustave Courbet, October 28-November 29, 2003, p. 23, ill.
Robert Fernier, La Vie et l'oeuvre de Gustave Courbet, Catalogue Raisonné, Lausanne and Paris: 1977-78, vol. I, no. 344, ill.
"Courbet's essential pictorial legacy came to fruition in the late 1860's," Jean-Jacques Fernier wrote in 1998 of the great, irascible, anti-establishment, and deeply poetic French realist. "His work from this period embraced nature in its entirety to the exclusion of all other components, in a mélange of profound and mysterious darkness, green pastures, shadows and water. . . Courbet was deeply tied to the poetic landscape of the Loue valley. Nestled within the Jura mountains, it was the cradle of his youth and the epicenter of his mythology. Courbet's eventual return to his origins as subject matter confirms this, rendering his last period of work far more important than one generally believes."
This rich, verdant landscape of circa 1863 marks the transition in Courbet's oeuvre to his intensive, late-career focus upon the landscape around his native village of Ornans, in the Jura region near the Swiss border. Central to this landscape is the river Loue, seen flowing through the foreground of this vertical slice of dense forest, and brilliant sky. Stretching over 126 kilometers, the Loue, a resurgence of the Doubs River, carved its bed in the deeply wooded plateaus of the Jura before merging into the Doubs River downstream from the city of Dole. The Loue valley is most dramatic between the source of the Loue and Courbet's hometown of Ornans, the capital of the Loue high valley. The river drops 229 meters in altitude over a distance of 20 kilometers, so that there are frequent picturesque waterfalls and rapids marking its descent, such as the gentle one depicted in the present work.
The most obsessive subject of Courbet's work as a landscape painter is the grotto, or the river's source. In the years immediately following his production of the present landscape, Courbet painted again and again the deep rocky cave from which the water of the Loue River emerges, as well as the towering stony outcroppings which flank its course and stand witness to all the water spilling forth. During the 1860s, when Courbet had turned his attention to his region's geologic structures, scientists had begun to explore the territory as well. It provided a prime opportunity to the newly developing field of geology, which opened up the vast perspective of geological time. In fact, Courbet's native landscape of Jura gave the Jurassic period its name. For Courbet as well as for the geologists, the life-giving force emanating from the dark cavern of the Loue had primordial significance. For Courbet, it had a profoundly personal, sexual significance as well: in was in this landscape that he literally came into the world. It is within this context of grotto paintings that Courbet painted his celebrated Origin of the World (Musee d'Orsay, Paris), a close-up view between the legs of a sturdy nude woman, in 1866: the nude is the source of the Loue, of Courbet himself, and of his artistic genius.
The specific landscape depicted in the present work is related to a more extensive painting of the same location entitled Rocks at Chauveroche (1864), private collection (reproduced in Mary Morton and Charlotte Eyerman, Courbet and the Modern Landscape, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, California, 2006, plate 4.) The same configuration of rapids, trees and shrubbery appears in the central foreground of the 1864 landscape, but is viewed from a vantage point parallel to the river.
Estimate: $50,000 - $70,000.
Relined with scattered strengthening to sky and lower right and thick, old varnish.
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