Gustave Courbet

The Wave (About 1869)

About this artwork

Courbet was fascinated by the power of the sea. He spent the summer of 1869 at Etretat on the Normandy coast and painted several pictures of waves breaking on the shore. The small scale of his canvas did not inhibit his ability to convey the vast expanse of stormy sky and sea. Courbet applied paint thickly using vigorous brush and palette knife strokes which complement the forceful surge of the wave. The motif of the single wave was inspired by Japanese colour prints which were widely available in Paris in the 1860s.

  • title: The Wave
  • accession number: NG 2233
  • artist: Gustave CourbetFrench (1819 - 1877)
  • gallery: On Loan
  • object type: Painting
  • subject: The sea
  • medium: Oil on canvas
  • date created: About 1869
  • measurements: 46.00 x 55.00 cm (framed: 66.71 x 75.90 x 9.50 cm)
  • credit line: Presented by Sir Alexander Maitland in memory of his wife Rosalind 1960

Gustave Courbet

Gustave Courbet

Courbet was the great rebel of nineteenth-century French art. He rejected the established conventions of academic painting, with its emphasis on idealised historical and mythological subjects, in favour of real subjects from ordinary life. Courbet staged his own exhibition in his 'Pavilion of Realism' during the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1855 which established an important precedent for future independent shows. Many of his paintings were based on people and places in the Jura, the mountainous region of eastern France where Courbet was born. His later self-imposed exile in Switzerland followed his active role in the Paris Commune.