Artist: Gustave Courbet
Completion Date: 1855
Genre: allegorical painting
Tags: allegories-and-symbols, famous-people, studios-and-workshops, Alfred-Bruyas, George-Sand, Champfleury, Pierre-Joseph-Proudhon, Gustave-Courbet, Honoré-de-Balzac, Gustave-Flaubert, Charles-Baudelaire
The Artist’s Studio, or A Real Allegory of a Seven Year Phase in May Artistic and Moral Life, was completed in a mere six weeks. All of the figures in the painting are allegorical representations of the figures that Courbet depicted in his paintings, and are all collected in his art studio for him to paint. The figures include people from all levels of society, including his friends and acquaintances, a nude representing the academic tradition of art, a child, and a dog, all the while Courbet is painting a landscape scene. In 1855, Courbet presented the painting to be displayed at the Paris World Fair, but it was refused entrance due to space concerns (the canvas was roughly 11 feet by 20 feet). Courbet thus took forty of his paintings and displayed them alongside the gallery in his own exhibition.
This 19 foot long painting is an expression of Courbet's self-love and pride in his iron will, hard work and revolutionary genius. Just as he heroicized others in the Burial at Ornans, he does the same for himself in this work. With a good measure of egotism, Courbet expresses that things get done and attitudes change when people think for themselves and challenge the status quo. Courbet places himself full-size, brush in hand, working on a landscape picture. His friends on the right are emblematic of kindred spirits and innovation, while the admiring boy is an expression of Courbet's confidence that his legacy will transcend generations. The nude model standing behind the artist affirms his greatness and her role as muse. To the left stand the working poor, Courbet's recognition of their right to be included. His nemesis, Napoleon III, is presented as a poacher holding a firearm, accompanied by his dogs. Courbet's chin-up gaze trumps Napoleon's downward tipped head in an expression of the innovator dominating over the authoritarian.