- (1865), oil on canvas
- 14.9 x 18.1 in. (38 x 46 cm.)
- Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
[from the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam]
“This canvas by the French artist Thomas Couture can be interpreted as a satire on Realism. Couture was critical of this new direction in painting, which preferred everyday and even entirely trivial subjects to literary or historical themes. This Realist “lowers” himself to painting the portrait of a pig, the quintessential symbol of stupidity. Inconsequential objects hang on the walls; the painter, seated on a sculpted head of the Greek god Zeus, displays scant regard for classical culture. Couture himself usually painted works whose subjects were somewhat more elevated, in a style more in keeping with the academic tradition.
“Realism in art is an attitude as much as a style. From the mid-19th century, Realist painters rebelled against the art academies and their old-fashioned themes, which seemed increasingly irrelevant in a world newly dominated by science and technology. The Realists reasoned that all meaningful knowledge came from what they could see and directly experience. Instead of depicting aristocrats and myths, they chose ordinary people and events as the subjects of their works. Gustave Courbet, the leader of the movement in art, expressed the Realists’ point of view when he declared that he could not draw an angel because he had never seen one.”
About the Artist
Thomas Couture, France, (1815-1879). Thomas Couture was a French Academic Historical painter, portraitist and teacher. A pupil himself of Antoine-Jean Gros and Paul Delaroche. He later taught Mary Cassatt, Édouard Manet, Pierre Cécile Puvis de Chavannes and many more.
He is chiefly remembered for his vast orgy picture “The Romans of the Decadence” (Musee d’Orsay, Paris). Critics have accused him of bombastic academic painting. He is praised for his use of bright color and surface texture derived from such painters as Decamps and Delacroix and for his methodical drawing.