Clément Laurier by Gustave Courbet

The artist and the portrait sitter both were ambitious, self-important, and controversial young men. Take a deeper dive into the work.

Clément Laurier (1855) by Gustave CourbetMilwaukee Art Museum

Clément Laurier
This is a youthful portrait of Clément Laurier (1832– 1878), a French lawyer and politician. He was friends with the artist, Gustave Courbet.

1855
In 1855, Courbet visited his friend’s new country estate and made this portrait. He visited again a year later, at which time he painted a portrait of Laurier’s wife.

Country scene
The background’s thick brushstrokes suggest a country scene. At the time this was painted, Laurier had just inherited his family’s home in Le Blanc, south of Paris, and was beginning a grand, luxurious life as a country gentleman.

Inscription
In the lower left-hand corner, the painting features Courbet’s dated signature and a dedication in French, “A mon ami Laurier,” meaning “To my friend Laurier.” Both artist and sitter were controversial figures with big personalities—perhaps it is no wonder they became friends.

Lurier’s face
Courbet painted his friend with a hard glint in his eye and a slight smirk, perhaps hinting at the fact that Laurier was controversial.

One of his contemporaries described him as a “chinless and thinlipped little man, bird-brained and weasel-faced…one of the most stubborn men of his time, the Machiavelli of his era.” Courbet himself was ambitious and extremely proud.

Realism
Courbet used a dark palette and generally strove to show his subjects as realistically as possible. He rejected the popular style of the academy, with its mythological, sentimental paintings, to create works that reflected real life, heralding a new style called Realism.

Credits: Story

Gustave Courbet
(French, 1819–1877)
Clément Laurier, 1855
Oil on canvas
39 3/8 × 31 3/4 in. (100.01 × 80.65 cm)
Gift of Friends of Art
M1968.31
Photographer credit: John R. Glembin

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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