Art: Courbet: Painting as Politics

The realist-revolutionary in a Paris retrospective

Any artist who feels mashed by critics can take comfort in what used to be written about Gustave Courbet. Consider the broadside he got from Alexandre Dumas fils in 1871: "Under what gardener's bell, with the help of what manure, as a result of what mixture of wine, beer, corrosive mucus and flatulent edema can have grown this sonorous and hairy pumpkin, this aesthetic belly, this imbecilic and impotent incarnation of the Self?"

Dumas was not alone in his fury. The French political journals, center and right, ravaged...

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