Gustave Courbet – Maisons Au Bord De L’eau (waterside Houses)

HAVING sold some pictures and ventured into the streets of Paris without misadventure Courbet took heart and left his refuge at Neuilly and went to his native country in search of the consolation that it had so often afforded him. But there, too, people were incensed against him. At Besançon, in the Boat Club, a grocer smashed his glass rather than dine with a Communard. At Ornans, which he reached on May 26, 1872, his friends’ celebrations could not conceal the hostility of the Municipal Council which had removed from the Iles-Basses fountain the statue of the “Pêcheur de Chavots” which the artist had done in 1862 and given to his native town. His family was in mourning, for his mother had died of grief during her son’s imprisonment. In spite of long walks amid the favourite haunts of his youth Courbet could not regain his physical and moral health. He wrote to his sister Zoé on January 16, 1873: “I have been ill more or less all winter with rheumatism and an enlarged liver. .

I have many commissions that I cannot carry out: and I have been so depressed by everything that has happened to me that I stayed in bed until midday.”

The Vienna exhibition then in preparation seemed to offer him an opportunity of resuming his old position among painters. On the advice of Castagnary, who spared no pains to help him, he informed the members of the jury of his intentions. But the vengeful Meissonier was still on the look out and Courbet was refused access to the exhibition.

However he began to work again with fresh courage.

His productive faculty was never more intense, than during the spring of r873. It is true that three of his pupils, Marcel Ordinaire, Cherubino Pata, and one, Cornu, were rather excessive in their zealous assistance. But the master’s hand is revealed in a few fine pictures, such as the “Maisons au Bord de l’Eau,” which must be attributed to this period. He was attempting to break new ground. In this picture his old, rather compact, manner is replaced by a rather dazzling technique which sends the air and the light rustling and quivering among the leaves and is a sort of forecast of the landscapes of the impressionist school.