Connect with us

DailyArtMagazine.com – Art History Stories

Painting of the Week: Gustave Courbet, Woman with a Parrot

Gustave Courbet, Woman with a Parrot, 1866, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Painting of the Week

Painting of the Week: Gustave Courbet, Woman with a Parrot

Gustav Courbet, the enfant terrible of French 19th-century art, did everything he could to save himself in the memory of the contemporary art critics. After the success of Cabanel’s Birth of Venus at the Salon of 1863, Courbet wanted to challenge the French Academy and painted two masterpieces. His first attempt in 1864 was rejected on the grounds of indecency; however, two years later, his Woman with a Parrot was accepted to be exhibited in the Salon of 1866.

Gustave Courbet Woman with a Parrot Birth of Venus, Alexandre Cabanel, 1863, Musée d’Orsay, Paris

Alexandre Cabanel, Birth of Venus, 1863, Musée d’Orsay, Paris

The viewers were shocked by the presence of the model’s discarded clothing and disheveled hair. Although it triggered shocking reactions in many of its viewers, the provocative picture found favor with a younger generation of artists who shared Courbet’s disregard for academic standards. Manet began his version of the subject the same year, and Cézanne apparently carried a small photograph of the present work in his wallet.

Interestingly, Jules-Antoine Castagnary, Courbet’s great defender, praised the artist for representing a “woman of our time.” Likely, the woman on the painting is Joanna Hiffernan, Courbet’s (and Whistler’s) muse and lover. Compared to idealized Cabanel’s Venus, she was a normal woman. The parrot, identified as a blue-fronted Amazon parrot, doesn’t help matters either as it “[embodies] both the exotic and the erotic.”

Gustave Courbet Woman with a Parrot

Gustave Courbet, Woman with a Parrot, 1866, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, detail


In 1864, before Woman with a Parrot, Courbet painted Venus and Psyche. It depicted “a masculine-looking brunette [leaning] with an equivocal expression (hatred? lust?) over a sumptuous, sleeping blonde.” The sleeping girl, Psyche, is in a position almost identical to that of the woman in Woman with Parrot. Unfortunately, the painting was destroyed in an air raid in Berlin in 1945. By then, it had already done its job of making Woman with Parrot appear relatively modest compared to Courbet’s other compositions. Two nudes was too much for the contemporary critique. One was enough.

Gustave Courbet Woman with a Parrot Gustave Courbet, Le Rêve, Vénus et Psyché, 1864, destroyed

Gustave Courbet, Le Rêve, Vénus et Psyché, 1864, destroyed

Louisine Havemeyer, a famous US art collector, feminist, and philanthropist who initially bought the work, had the sense of what it would become. She recalled, “I begged Mr. Havemeyer to buy the picture. Not to hang it in our gallery lest the anti-nudists should declare a revolution and revise our constitution, but just to keep it in America, just that such a work should not be lost to the future generations.”


And luckily it wasn’t.

Find out more:

.   . 

Art Historian, founder and CEO of DailyArtMagazine.com and DailyArt mobile app. But to be honest, her greatest accomplishment is being the owner of Pimpek the Cat.

Comments

More in Painting of the Week

  • Vincent Van Gogh, The Sower, 1888 Vincent Van Gogh, The Sower, 1888

    19th Century

    Vincent van Gogh Copying Other Artists

    By

    Vincent van Gogh is famous nowadays for two things. Firstly, his unstoppable creativity – he produced 2,100 artworks in just over a decade. And, secondly, his struggles with his mental health. The famous ear incident was the catalyst for him admitting himself into the Saint-Remy Asylum,...

  • 20th century

    The Art of Adolf Hitler: Idyllic Paintings of a Monster

    By

    Adolf Hitler is one of history’s most infamous dictators. After coming to power as Führer of Nazi Germany, he and his followers were responsible for the deaths of millions, not to mention the world’s greatest mass theft and destruction of priceless artworks. However, what you may...

  • 19th Century

    Painting of the Week: Kikukawa Eizan, The Courtesan Hinaaya of the Chōji House

    By

    Vincent and Theo van Gogh, the close-knit brothers, extensively collected Japanese Ukiyo-e prints. Van Gogh had already bought a few in Antwerp before arriving in Paris. However, by the mid 19th century, Paris had already been swept by the tantalizing vogue of Japonisme. Japonisme, which is...

  • dailyart

    Eid Al-Fitr — Islamic Prayer in Art

    By

    Eid-al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting, and the first day of the Islamic month of Shawwal. The date is determined annually by the sighting of the moon and varies each year on the Gregorian calendar. Eid begins with communal prayers that are...

  • 19th Century

    William Waterhouse’s Love for Circe

    By

    Circe is one of the fascinating characters in Homer’s epic poem the Odyssey. Due to her complex and unconventional nature, many painters have attempted to portray her in their own unique ways throughout history. Yet, there was one particular painter who painted her not just once,...

To Top

Just to let you know, DailyArt Magazine’s website uses cookies to personalise content and adverts, to provide social media features and to analyse traffic. Read cookies policy