Gustave Courbet – Le Chasseur D’eau (the Water Hunter)

THE Salons of 1857 and 1861 contained most of Courbet’s output as a painter of hunting scenes. In the latter exhibition he had, besides “Le Combat de Cerf ,” “Un Cerf à l’Eau” “Un Renard dans la Neige,” and “Un Piqueur et son Cheval.” The last picture was thought absurd, and “worthy of the painter in his worst days.” The artist tried to make it better subsequently, but under its new title, “Le Cheval Dérobé,” it is still a very bad picture. However, Courbet was soon to receive, for a new picture of the same series, the most unanimous chorus of praise that he ever provoked in the whole course of his long career. In the Salon of 1866, his famous ” Remise des Chevreuils” met with nothing but praise. All those who had hitherto been shocked by the strong personality and the rather brutal talent of the painter, were loud in their admiration of this almost insignificantly charming picture. The numerous deer that Courbet painted from this model, “all as pleasing as those of the ‘Remise,’ as he said in an unpublished letter in the Doucet library (February 13, 1870), always found a public. A “Cerf aux Ecoutes ” of the same calibre, painted in 1859, was given to the Louvre. As for “Le Remise,” it was sold by the artist for 15,000 francs, was in turn in the Lepel-Cointet, Laurent-Richard and Sécrétan collections, and was finally bought for 76,000 francs by a society of amateurs, and given to the Louvre. It has become so hackneyed by reproductions of all kinds and sizes, that we may be excused from reproducing it here.

Mention must be made of the “Hallali’ du Cerf,” now in the Besançon museum, which created a very different sort of sensation in the exhibition of 1867, and the Salon of 1869. The general opinion was that the execution is chimerical,” and far above the pretentions of the picture.

In the last years of his life, when his extreme corpulence and growing infirmities made walking and violent exercise extremely difficult for him, Courbet did not give up his favourite subjects. One of the last of his fine hunting pictures was painted in 1873, and shows us one of those landscapes under snow, of which he was so fond, a “Chasseur d’Eau, out after teal and wild duck. It is now in the Duret collection.