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Monday, 13 December 2010

Artwork of the day

The Burial at Ornans, Gustave Courbet, 1849-1850, oil on canvas, Musée d'Orsay, Paris

The second of the three works by Courbet to examine the French rural life, the Burial at Ornans deals not with the deprived poor but with the rural bourgeoisie. The occasion is a burial, perhaps, a real event from the social life at Ornans. The people represented, are “the public face” of the town, mixed with members of Courbet’s own family. However if one’s looks closer, understands that very few among the crowd actually mourn for the dead. Many look out of the picture, others talk with each other. This is clearly then a social event, where the bourgeoisie of Ornans gathered to show off. It is how the sarcastic eye of the artist saw all these people, and the burial at Ornans is the way he chose to criticize them. This painting is a visual contrast to the miserable situation of the Stonebreakers. These people are quite wealthy even if their status is much lower than this of the urban bourgeoisie that claimed power in Paris and the other big urban centers of France. 

Clark, T.J. 1969. “A Bourgeois dance of death: Max Buchon on Courbet-I” The Burlington magazine. pp 208-213
Rubin, Henry James. 1997. Courbet. France: Phaidon

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