Friday, January 2, 2009

Gustave Courbet

Gustave Courbet. Le Guitarrero, 1844.

It may seem odd for me to feature Courbet here, he being somewhat outside the family of painters we study (and outside the realm of my scholarship, apart from simple appreciation!) -- but truly he is a kindred spirit of Hals, Claesz, Holbein, and our other heroes, by simple fact of his unerring commitment to the representation of simple truth.

Here we have a beautiful example of that commitment. But, more deeply, we have a study -- perhaps an appreciation, rather? -- of the artist's craft in general, which takes place on two levels: the appreciation of the artist's communion with nature (nature serving as a meditation on truth, of course); and, second, of the communion the artist makes with truth in his translation of object to art.

Nature, of course, is endlessly inspiring; countless painters have made their careers on portraying its plunging depths, its sweet wisdoms, its soaring highs. The young man playing his guitar is communing with nature, then. His eyes lift heavenward. His papers, matches, and fresh joint, in the hands of a Courbet, seem alert and full of energy. He gingerly plucks what looks to be a C Major chord, his hand already moving for the next chord change, probably inspired by what all of us have experienced in nature: sitting, letting nature be, breathing sincerely and deeply of the piney silence. The young man realizes that life, as we live it, as artists live it, is a struggle against inertia, a vigorous thrust toward living and not just life.


Improvedliving said...

well thanks for sharing these stuff. It is really incredible.


Jan Peeters said...

Mr. Baines, it is our pleasure to share the simpler joys of life with people like you! Perhaps Courbet can teach us all to pause for a moment in the woods, sit on a rock, breathe deeply, and reflect on how lucky we are to be able to look upon this world.

Hermann Wundrum said...

A fan of gold from the heavens, piney silence, fresh joints! Jan, sometimes you make me ashamed to own a lightbulb. My greatest pleasures are either out of doors or upon canvas!

Jan Peeters said...

I once camped-out in a spot remarkably similar to this one. I remember sitting in the deepening gloam, my copy of The Mill on the Floss lit only by a piercing shaft of light from the setting sun -- I reached the end of my favorite passage, the one on √° Kempis, when I paused, deep in thought. I heard something in the woods: a sweet glissando, played on the classical guitar! Could it be? Was it?

My dreams that night were cascades of intense, abstract color. It was as if I had touched the hem of Courbet's garment.

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