PROPERTY FROM A EUROPEAN PRIVATE COLLECTION
July 9, 02:03 PM GMT
200,000 - 300,000 GBP
Property from a European Private Collection
Paysage de neige avec arbres et rochers
signed and dated 65 G. Courbet lower left
oil on canvas
78.5 by 100cm., 31 by 39¼in.
Acquired by the family of the present owners by 1900; thence by descent
'He discovered virgin lands where no one had yet placed a foot, aspects and forms of landscape that one could say were unknown before he painted them...Each time he plunged into the bosom of deep nature, he was like a man who has penetrated a beehive and come out covered with honey'.
The critic Jules-Antoine Castagnary on Courbet
A rediscovery unseen in public for over 120 years, Paysage de neige avec arbres et rochers belongs to a small group of winter landscapes of comparable dimensions depicting the same birch trees in the artist's native region of Franche Comté. Other notable compositions include an earlier painting of 1860 in the Cincinnati Art Museum, which features deer and a rocky outcrop to the right (fig. 1), and a work of circa 1865 in the National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh, whose composition is close to the present work. Here, as in the Edinburgh work, Courbet explores the sous bois setting through a pure landscape devoid of narrative incident or human presence. In an altogether different form, the motif of the two leaning beech trees in the centre of the composition appeared as early as 1858 in Le Repas de chasse (Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Cologne).
While Courbet's own mythology suggested an artist who painted quickly with a rough, macho facture, the well preserved surface of the present work reveals how sophisticated Courbet's handling of paint could be. The winter subject allowed Courbet to build layer upon layer of paint over the earth and remnants of the russet foliage through masterful use of the palette knife. As Charlotte Eyerman has written, 'snow itself is Courbet's central fascination in these pictures: it is ephemeral, transmutable, and inherently unstable...As a group, the snowscapes are extremely tactile and emphatically material, and they have a sculptural quality, in terms of both composition and surface.'
To be included in the forthcoming Courbet catalogue raisonné by the Comité Gustave Courbet (letter dated 10 March 2019).