Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Gustave Courbet and John Constable's Anniversaries

Today is the birthday of French painter Gustave Courbet (10 June 1819) and tomorrow that of British painter John Constable (11 June 1776). They achieved the very height of representational landscape painting, and being revolutionary, ushered in a new era, which culminated in the Impressionism movement some decades later.

I saw a few canvases of of Constable in Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge and National Gallery, London. I really admired his country scenes - they provided mood and set the scene and they told stories.

But I admired Courbet even higher. Constable pacifies me while Courbet excites me. Of course there will be exceptions. Some Turner-like paintings by Constable give me shiver as well.

For Constable, figures were more decorative though with their stories to tell but Courbet saw them as objects of interests. Could anyone forget Bonjour, Monsieur after just a glimpse? Would one not be crushed by his massive waves?


Wivenhoe Park, Essex (1816)

The Hay Wain (1821)

Seascape Study with Rain Cloud (c. 1824)


Bonjour, Monsieur Courbet (1854)

Plage de Normandie (c. 1872/1875)



  1. I'm glad you've pointed out the similarities between Constable's seascapes, mostly done near Brighton, and those of Courbet, who worked extensively in Normandy and Switzerland. (To all intents and purposes, Courbet's studies of Lac Leman might as well be considered seascapes). The picture by Constable of a storm over the Channel (that you feature here) bears alarming similarities to Courbet's 'Waterspout', that he painted from the other side of the Channel

  2. Thank you for the interesting and fascinating background information.