Gustave Courbet, A Burial at Ornans, 1849-50
Artist Gustave Courbet’s Realist style makes another appearance in this dark, foreboding display of Courbet’s grand-uncle’s funeral. The funeral’s actual attendants acted as Courbet’s models, and their stiffness or lack of theatricality in expression or movement is inconsistent with the normative images or emotions that are associated with a funeral. The model’s faces are almost expression-less, which takes away the painting’s “painterly-ness,” which causes the viewer to consider truth and reality, rather than artistic tradition.
The painting is in extremely large scale, which was normally reserved for grand history paintings, paintings that depicted major historical, religious or mythological events, rather than personal or societal concepts. Such paintings were also normally reserved for royals and nobles, therefore Courbet intentionally confronts the privileged bourgeoisie class with gloomy images of social reality.