Courbet was an avid hunter and painted such works as Roe Deer at a Stream—in which he seems to approach the deer, his quarry unobserved—to appeal to patrons who shared his sporting interests. By depicting such swift and skittish creatures he also demonstrated his ability to make lightning-fast observations and renditions. In this respect, Courbet was challenging the efforts of his many talented young admirers—including Manet, Degas, Monet, and Renoir—who, in the 1860s, were already determined to depict the fast pace of modern life on Paris streets or at the racetrack.

Courbet boasted about painting directly from nature in proto-Impressionist fashion, but the fact that many of the animals in Roe Deer at a Stream are identical in pose to those in a closely related landscape of 1866 (Musée d’Orsay, Paris) reveals such claims to be exaggerated. In a letter written to his parents in 1866, Courbet explained that he had rented some deer from a Paris game butcher to serve as models. His tricks of the trade notwithstanding, Courbet’s originality is evident in his economical and confident brushwork, which, in tandem with his use of a palette knife, suggests delicate textures like grass or leaves and rough ones like stone strata. With Courbet’s “art for art’s sake” emphasis on the physical qualities of paint, works like Roe Deer at a Stream inspired several generations of modern landscape artists, from Cézanne to Picasso and Matisse.


  • Title: Roe Deer at a Stream
  • Creator: Gustave Courbet
  • Date Created: 1868
  • Physical Dimensions: 38 3/8 x 51 1/8 in. (97.5 x 129.8 cm)
  • Provenance: Vicomte François de Curel [1854-1928], Paris; (sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 3 May 1918). Hans Duensing, Boizenburg, Germany, by 1929; given to his daughter, Alice von Guggenberger [1911-2001], Lugano; purchased from (Alice von Guggenberger, Lugano) by Kimbell Art Foundation, Fort Worth, 1968.
  • Rights: Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas
  • External Link: www.kimbellart.org
  • Medium: Oil on canvas
  • Japanese: French
  • Century: 19th century
  • Artist Dates: (1819–1877)

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