Gustave Courbet – Chiens Et Lievre (dogs And Hare)

IN the Salon of 1857 Courbet had also, besides a landscape and two portraits, two hunting scenes, the first of a series which he continually extended. “La Biche Forcée a la Neige” (in the Douville-Maillefeu collection) has often been reproduced. Against the vast stretch of snow, pierced by rust-coloured bushes, the beast, a magnificently coated creature, is shown dying in the foreground. In the distance there are five exasperatingly absurd dogs, absurd in form, colour, and movement. They are so absurd that one cannot object to the critics who refused to make any allowance for them.

“La Curée du Chevreuil,” also called “Chasse au Chevreuil dams les Forêts du Grand Jura,” on the other hand, was justly admired. The picture was sold for 8,000 francs to M. Vanisack, of Antwerp, by him given to M. Luquet, and sold in x866 for 25,000 francs to the Alston club, of Boston. Judging by the lithographs of Celestin Nanteuil and Emile Vernier, it must be one of the painter’s masterpieces.

In a wood of tall pines the deer is shown hung by its feet from a tree. In the delicate handling of the pelt, and the magnificent poise and weight of the body, the painter has created an admirable still-life, Standing up in a blouse, shoulders back, gaitered, with arms folded, Courbet is listening to the huntsman sounding his horn. Two dogs, dappled with brown spots, are bounding towards the stag. The picture is one of animal vigour and religious grandeur.

About, Gautier, Maxime du Camp, Castagnary, all praised the picture as it deserved; though, of course, not without certain reservations with regard to detail. Castagnary, for instance, was surprised that dogs, with the bodies of bassets, should have the coats of brachhounds, and About, who acknowledged their coarse quality of life, and admired the ” powerful, skilful painting,” seems to be thinking wistfully of the dogs of Desportes. But we have every reason to suppose that such cavilling was only introduced into their notices to avoid breaking away from their settled habit of criticizing Courbet.

The two dogs of the “Curée ” are shown, identically reproduced in the splendid picture here reproduced, which a short time ago left the Durand-Ruel collection for New, York. The pine woods have become an oak forest; the huntsmen have disappeared; the stag has been re-placed by a hare. But the two dogs are just the same, and give us no reason to think regretfully of the exact Desportes, nor of the work of any more powerful animal painter since his time.