Gustave Courbet depicted social reality, dispassionately; his realist's gaze was also directed at animals and the natural environment. Courbet, who enjoyed hunting, submitted a hunting scene to the Salon in 1857, which was at about the time that he painted this one, and received a favorable reception. He subsequently painted over 60 hunting scenes. Among them, the deer was his most prominent motif; he also made a specialty of painting snow scenes. Here the black stag, sensing danger approaching from the rear, is dashing across the white snowfield, baying; his form is filled with tension. Courbet has effectively expressed the rough feel of the snow and the light reflecting from it through use of the palette knife. His bold style violates the traditional norms of painting, in which the surface was to be cleanly finished, leaving no trace of the brush.