#FineArtFriday: The Stonebreakers by Gustave Courbet 1849

Gustave_Courbet_-_The_Stonebreakers_-_WGA05457Artist: Gustave Courbet  (1819–1877)

Title: The Stonebreakers


Medium: oil on canvas

Dimensions: height: 165 cm (64.9 in); width: 257 cm (101.1 in)

Current location: destroyed in fire, 1945 (Dresden, Germany)

Today’s image comes to us via the miracle of 20th century photography and modern digital photographic restoration.

The exact number of paintings and other art masterpieces that were either destroyed or are still missing since World War II is not known, but is estimated that during World War II, the Nazis looted some 600,000 paintings from Jews and Art Museums, at least 100,000 of which are still missing. Unfortunately, the original canvas of this painting was a casualty of war, destroyed in the bombing of Dresden.

About this image, via Wikipedia: Considered to be the first of Courbet’s great works, The Stone Breakers of 1849 is an example of social realism that caused a sensation when it was first exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1850. The work was based on two men, one young and one old, whom Courbet discovered engaged in backbreaking labor on the side of the road when he returned to Ornans for an eight-month visit in October 1848. On his inspiration, Courbet told his friends and art critics Francis Wey and Jules Champfleury, “It is not often that one encounters so complete an expression of poverty and so, right then and there I got the idea for a painting.”

While other artists had depicted the plight of the rural poor, Courbet’s peasants are not idealized like those in works such as Millet’s The Gleaners. [1]

Also via Wikipedia: The Stone Breakers (FrenchLes Casseurs de pierres) was an 1849 painting by the French painter Gustave Courbet. It was a work of realism, depicting two peasants, a young man and an old man, breaking rocks.

The Stone Breakers was first exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1850. As a work of realism the subject matter addressed a scene of everyday life. This painting was intended to show the hard labor that poor citizens experienced. Courbet did not show the figure’s faces, they represent the “every man” and are not meant to be specific individuals. At the same time the clothing of the figures implies some degree of individuality, the younger man’s pants are too short and the older man’s vest is striped.

The painting was destroyed during World War II, along with 154 other pictures, when a transport vehicle moving the pictures to the castle of Königstein, near Dresden, was bombed by Allied forces in February 1945. [2]

About the artist, via Wikipedia:

Jean Désiré Gustave Courbet (UK/ˈkʊərbeɪ/ KOOR-bay,[1] US/kʊərˈbeɪ/ koor-BAY,[2] French: [ɡystav kuʁbɛ]; 10 June 1819 – 31 December 1877) was a French painter who led the Realism movement in 19th-century French painting. Committed to painting only what he could see, he rejected academic convention and the Romanticism of the previous generation of visual artists. His independence set an example that was important to later artists, such as the Impressionists and the Cubists. Courbet occupies an important place in 19th-century French painting as an innovator and as an artist willing to make bold social statements through his work.

Courbet’s paintings of the late 1840s and early 1850s brought him his first recognition. They challenged convention by depicting unidealized peasants and workers, often on a grand scale traditionally reserved for paintings of religious or historical subjects. Courbet’s subsequent paintings were mostly of a less overtly political character: landscapesseascapeshunting scenesnudes, and still lifes. Courbet, a socialist, was active in the political developments of France. He was imprisoned for six months in 1871 for his involvement with the Paris Commune and lived in exile in Switzerland from 1873 until his death four years later. [1]

Credits and Attributions:

Image: Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Gustave Courbet – The Stonebreakers – WGA05457.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Gustave_Courbet_-_The_Stonebreakers_-_WGA05457.jpg&oldid=661589775 (accessed December 1, 2022).

Wikipedia contributors, “Gustave Courbet,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Gustave_Courbet&oldid=1123079028 (accessed December 1, 2022). [1]

Wikipedia contributors, “The Stone Breakers,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=The_Stone_Breakers&oldid=1070869064 (accessed December 1, 2022). [2]


Filed under #FineArtFriday

4 responses to “#FineArtFriday: The Stonebreakers by Gustave Courbet 1849

  1. That’s amazing, Connie. To think that we now have the means to recreate such works. It’s mind-blowing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello! Yes – at least someone had the foresight to photograph it. So many lost works survive only because of photography.

    Liked by 1 person