FEW painters managed to outrage the respectable standards of their day with more gusto than France's master of 19th century realism, Gustave Courbet. In his time he kept up a running battle with critics, who found his work sordid and common, termed him a "butcher" and "a great stupid painter." Today Courbet's work is attacked from the new academy of abstraction as too photographic.

Courbet's crime lay in giving monumental treatment to everyday subjects and drawing some of his deepest inspiration from direct contact with nature. Among his favorite areas were the forests near his native Ornans. It...

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