Courbet, Gustave (1819-77)
Gustave Courbet was born in Ornans, France. He went to Paris in 1840 to study art, working mostly in the Louvre and from models. His early work was romantic and he saw himself, in early self-portraits, as a Byronic figure. The Revolution of 1848 swept away the last vestiges of Courbet's romantic tendencies and he became a realist.
His palette, at first dark or restrained, became warmer and brighter as he grew older. A master of technique, he could apply paint as smoothly as enamel or in thick corrugations. His ability to paint texture, particularly that of animal pelts, was unrivalled.
Courbet's own life was fairly heroic - he was also imprisoned for his part in the uprising of the Commune in 1871, spent six months in prison, and then went to live in exile in Switzerland where he died, still owing the French government a large sum charged to him for the destruction of the Vendome column. Throughout his life he fought with both government authorities and public taste but continued to paint as he pleased.