Courbet, the rebel artist’s work at Alliance française de Kandy

By Janaka Samarakoon

The Alliance française de Kandy’s annual Art Week which continues until November 7, is this year devoted to the French painter Gustave Courbet. An exhibition – Gustave Courbet, l’insoumis – will display reproductions of the main works of this artistic rebel and leading proponent of Realism.

The works of a selected group of students who participated in a workshop will also be on display from November 1-7.

Realism flourished in the middle of the 19th Century in France as a reaction against two schools of thought which were predominant in Europe and more particularly in France, Neoclassicism, characterised by the idealisation of nature and beauty and Romanticism which subordinated nature to the subjectivity of the artist.

Realism, however, is the opposite of these two schools. The “realists” produce on canvas what they see and experience – neither a sublimated vision of the Real like Neo-classicists used to do, nor a glorified vision of sentiments dear to Romantics.

With Courbet’s Realism, the contemporary world accommodated itself in the realm of art. People from Courbet’s native village, Ornans, became the Madonnas of a new order or the discrete heroes of their own lives. This down-to-earth quality of his work is, in part, a result of his political commitment.

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