The authenticity of this work has been confirmed by Jean-Jacques Fernier, who will be including it in his forthcoming catalogue raisonné on the artist.
The authenticity of this work has been confirmed by Sarah Faunce on the basis of high-resolution photographs.
Gillet Collection, Lyon
Pierre Granville, Paris
Arthur Tooth and Sons, London (by 1959)
Crane Kalman Gallery, London
Acquired by the family of the present owner from the above in 1962; thence by descent
London, Arthur Tooth and Sons, Recent Acquisitions, 1960, no. 3
London, Crane Kalman Gallery, The Sea, 1962, no. 1
Courbet loved the sea, which he first discovered in 1854 when staying with his friend Alfred Bruyas in Montpellier. But it was with his trips to Trouville from 1865 and to Etretat in 1869 that his marine paintings took on the importance they now occupy in his oeuvre.
André Fermigier and Klaus Herding make the analogy between the sea as painted by Courbet, and the cliffs of his native Ornans: solid, green or grey, striated with reds and ocres, the immutable sea takes on an almost earthy dimension.
Embracing the sea as he had the rocks and hills of Ornans in his youth, the sea in his paintings of the '60s is no longer a distant presence as in his early Mediterranean pictures, lapping gently against a flat beach, but very close and immediate. The sea rises into a solid, rocky crest, at the very forefront of the picture plane, startling and absorbing the viewer.
La Vague has all the hallmarks of Courbet's Ornans landscapes, transposed to the sea. The rolling wave unfurls, forming a grotto or cave comparable to the source of the Loue (lot 322), its substance accentuated by the thick impastos applied with a palette knife.
The sense of stasis and monumentality central to Courbet's wave paintings may well be attributed to the advent of photography. The fugitive moment becomes an eternal one, no more masterfully than in the present work.
Courbet's wave paintings epitomise everything that is original in his artistic expression. His first-hand observations are enriched through his memory and his interest in photography, but above all by his inner vision: 'Everything he sees,' remarks André Fermigier, 'he sees from the inside' (quoted in Gustave Courbet, exhibition catalogue, Paris, Grand Palais, 2007, p. 291).
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