How to Paint Winterscapes: Gustave Courbet Paintings

Poor Woman of Village Oil on Canvas  Gustave Courbet

There was a painter in Paris, in the nineteenth century. 

He had no inclination to paint either religious events or the gossips of the palaces. 

He reserved his head and heart for the genuine depiction of the objects lying in his surrounding. The real life. He painted scenes of daily life; he enlivened the events of common people; he painted working men and women. But his most stunning frames were from nature, especially the paintings of Mother Earth during the winter season. His name was Gustave Courbet (1819-1877).

Gustave Courbet: He was a man of free will who did not associate with any school, institution or style of painting. He kept equidistance from the church, too. He wanted to know the reality of the world perspiring in his surround. Gustave Courbet, a Parisian painter, painting winter shapes, made us visually informed about Winter Landscapes. 

The art-field of Paris in the 1840s was not an easy task to plough. Gustave had to struggle hard to make his space in that region. This is how he described his situation in the city of Paris. "There's nothing harder in the world than making art, particularly when no one understands it. Women want portraits without shadow, men want to be dressed up in their Sunday best; there's no way out. To earn money with things like that, you'd be better of walking on a treadmill."

The Art: In the above painting, Poor woman of the Village, Courbet has shown his artistic prowess in depicting the scenery with honesty. The snow-clad landscape and the foreground figures of a child and a village woman followed by a goat immediately put into a village scene during winter. The snow rich rooftop seen in the distance depicts the harshness of the season. However, the upright walking child symbolises the fact that they were not at pains. It was their land; it was their life. They enjoyed their life.

The Artist: Gustave Courbet came from an affluent family. But preferred to be among the life of the common men. He had emerged as a force in modern painting. He had properties situated in south-east France, near the beautiful and snow-covered mountain peaks of the Alps, nearing the Swiss border. It made Courbet come in close touch with nature. His artistic soul turned these opportunities into beautifully painted landscapes, the waterscape paintings. On seeing his paintings, the viewers' eyes would realize how the cold-shawl of snow covers every inch of the earth, making it elegantly attractive. Such was his perfection in the art.

Village in winter Gustave Courbet
Stradelsches Kunstininstitute and Stadtische Galerie
Stradel Museum of Art, Frankfurt, Germany

Winter In Art: We love to see the trees in winter, stripped of their foliages and with exposed skeletons. The winter scenes and the shapes visible in the cold panorama have their own appeal. If we look with an artist’s mind, we can trace out that rhythm. The rhythm is embedded in the shapes formed by the trees standing on the barren land, in the branches of trees and their twigs, and on the snowfall on a distant rooftop. Gustave Courbet had seen such beauty in the winter scenes. He had painted many landscapes, which makes the viewers visually informed bout the colourful elegance of winter scenes. 

Courbet had painted several winter landscapes. He applied the concept of symbolism in his paintings, too. In this painting Village in Winter, he had depicted his favourite subject, the harshness of nature. Here he painted the homes, symbolising the security and the feel of being sheltered. The just-fallen snow indicates the vagaries of weather inflict on us. Such contradiction was not uncommon in Courbet’s paintings, it was like his signature. 

Here he seemed to have worked from darker shades to lighter ones. From the darkness to the light. It completes the chiaroscuro, using the technique of painting the darker parts with loaded shadows. The landscape artists is not merely a photographer, recreating a scene with blobs of colours and bristles of his brushes. He is an authentic narrator of Mother Earth.

The Wheat Sifters Gustave Courbet
Oil on Canvas  Fine Arts Museum of Nantes, France

If the artist does not apply symbolism in his/her painting, the artwork seems lacking something. But here Gustave Courbet has depicted the hardships of life through the snow-covered land and the visible poverty of the woman. But the shining sun provides us with the feeling of hope and happiness. In the painting The Wheat Sifters we can see the common women doing the works of their daily life. They do it naturally; they do it happily.

Gustave experimented with the hues of the colours, too. "If I find it blacker than black, I will use it". Yes, he said this, and he believed in this. Turner was a man of experiments. He did the same thing, the experiments, with the watercolours. Some of his paintings, in the initial part of his career, were branded as soap-suds. But he persisted and he got the name and fame. But nothing had stopped the artists like Turner and Gustave from doing innovative experiments.

   The Desperate
Self Portrait 
Gustave Courbet

In a larger perspective, Gustave ventured to reveal his feelings for the piece of land he painted. He painted what he loved most. Here Courbet seems to embed his patriotism and the love for the land he lived on. It was not surprising why Courbet tilted his brushes loaded with bright colours towards the neat realism. Though he was a master in portrait making, he mainly painted common places and common men and women. These people would be active in their daily life. He painted the activities.

Gustave kept an active disconnection with the mainstream of artists. This is visible in every brushstroke he put on canvas. It happens that when you express freedom and when you enjoy your freedom, too, you would find the notes of displeasure in your surrounding. That had happened in the case of Gustave. His vibrant and honest presentation made him inviting enmity and affection, almost in the same proportion.  

Chateau de Chillon
OIl on canvas Gustave Courbet
         Museum of Western and  Oriental Art, Ukraine

Landscapes: Courbet had cultivated his command over the art of painting landscapes. He tried recreating many historical and important places he had seen or lived nearby. The painting Chateau de Chillon, a one thousand years old building, is one of Courbet's paintings. This place and the monumental edifice had always been an inspiration for the artists, as it is considered a jewel of architectural design. Writers have written about it. The painters have painted it. So did Courbet. [All the paintings are in Public Domain, taken from Wikimedia Commons]

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