Gustave Courbet – Le Chateau D’ornans (the Castle Of Or Nans)

TOGETHER with the “Cribleuses de Blé” and “La Rencontre,” which, according to Courbet, was only grudgingly accepted, being thought “too personal and pretentious, ” the artist showed a portrait of a certain Spanish lady whom he had met at Lyons, in the Universal Exhibition of 1855. With these were also a few earlier pictures like the “Casseurs de Pierres,” “Les Demoiselles de Village,” “La Fileuse ” and two self-portraits. Further he exhibited three Franche-Comté landscapes: “La Roche de dix Heures,” “Le Ruisseau du Puits-Noir” (not to be confused with the picture of the same name in the Louvre), and “Le Château d’Ornans” here reproduced. This name, which set some of the critics carping, was used in his native country for the group of little houses built above the town on the sight of the old castle. They are perched high on the grey rock, above the moist green valley, and stand out against a setting boldly painted and infused with a tranquillity that is much less exceptional in the artist’s work than might be supposed.

The picture was engraved by Gaujean and appeared in the “Gazette des Beaux-Arts ” in 1 878 and at that time belonged to Laurent Richard. It has since been taken to America.

In spite of this considerable exhibit Courbet was not so well represented as he could have wished. The jury of 1855 was less liberal than that of 185o and rejected “L’Enterrement.” It also refused a new picture “L’Atelier.” It must be said that a few months before the artist had made good use of an opportunity for upsetting the official circles. His own account of the matter is to be found in a letter to Bruyas, published in the “Artistic and Literary Archives,” 1890-91.

Through the mediation of Chenavard and Francois M. de Nieuwerkerque, Director of Fine Arts, had invited Courbet to a conciliatory luncheon. They were trying to “convert ” the artist and make him ” water his wine.” He was promised in return a good position in the exhibition for any big picture he liked to submit to the scrutiny of an official committee. Courbet responded to the invitation in a manner that broke off all negotiations. It was all to no purpose that they exhorted him to show some consideration for the governing body: “I am my own governing body,” he replied. After assuring the Director that he bore him no ill-will Courbet told his colleagues that they were a couple of idiots. ” Never mind,” he said, ” Let’s go and drink a glass of beer.”

Courbet bore no grudge against these men for their unsuccessful attempts to be of service to him.