About this artwork

Courbet first started to paint snow scenes in the winter of 1856-57, but it was only in the 1860s that he developed a strong interest in this theme. He was no doubt inspired by the countryside of his native Franche-Comté, which suffered particularly heavy falls of snow in the winter of 1866-67. The foreground motif of two beech trees recurs in a number of paintings by Courbet from 1858-66. It is highly probable that this picture shows an imagined, rather than a real landscape, in which favourite landscape elements such as the beech trees were reused. Courbet’s snow scenes were a source of inspiration to the Impressionists, notably Sisley, Monet and Pissarro.

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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.