Nothing but Reality
When the Jury of the Salon turned down his works in 1855, without more ado Courbet exhibited them outside the gates to the Paris World Exposition under the title ”le realisme”. Courbet rejected the prevailing currents of Classicism and Romanticism and confined himself solely to what can actually be seen in the world. Using grimy colours and consciously flouting every academic convention, he presented his audience with everyday life. His sometimes coarse depictions prompted fierce criticism on occasion. But his total lack of compromise had an influence that extended far beyond the borders of France: Courbet was regarded as the founder of Realism.
An important event that helped spread this new concept was the International Art Exhibition in 1869 in Munich. Hang-ing alongside works by Courbet were a number of paintings by the young academy pupil Wilhelm Leibl. Courbet – no friend of German painting – viewed the exhibition and was so impressed by Leibl’s works that he paid a personal visit to the artist. A bone of contention in his own country, the German artist at last found the recognition he desired in Paris.
Can you recognise the effects of this Franco-German encounter in the work of the two artists?