Gustave Courbet was a French painter and sculptor, and is considered the founder of realism as an artistic movement. He is particularly known for works such as Stonecutters (1849), A funeral in Ornans (1850), Good day, Herr Courbet (1854) and The Origin of the World (1866).
One of the most important moves Courbet made to break with conventional art was to paint everyday subjects in canvas sizes that were traditionally reserved for religious, mythological or historical subjects, the so-called "heroic size". Ordinary men and women were now elevated to "heroes of modern life". This was seen as vulgar and inappropriate, and provoked strong reactions from the bourgeois public and the conservative press. But some critics were also enthusiastic about Courbet's art. In 1851, the art critic François Sabatier compared Courbet's entry into the contemporary French art world to "a cannonball bursting through a wall".
One finds clear traces of political and social involvement already in artists such as Théodore Géricault, Honoré Daumier and Eugène Delacroix, but it was Courbet who first defined the artistic principles of realism in his exhibition "Pavillon du Réalisme" in 1855. The artist's ambition was now no longer to be simple imitation or idealisation, but to provide a credible and neutral observation of the contemporary world.
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