Art: An Abiding Passion for Reality Gustave Courbet

The character of Courbet is captured in a rich new show

Gustave Courbet has been seen for most of this century as the patriarch of the avant-garde ideal, a man both embodying his time and working in defiance of bourgeois taste: in short, a hero. He was born in 1819 the son of a farmer, lived as a socialist, and died in 1877 exiled in Switzerland, his paintings deemed unexhibitable in France on political grounds. In the end, Courbet was financially crushed by a judgment imposed on him by the French government of more than 300 million francs -- precisely the cost of re-erecting the Vendome Column, the imperial symbol for whose...

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