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Subject: Courbet


From: Devi Ormond <deviormond<-a>
Date: Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Helen Mar Parkin <hmparkin [at] sbcglobal__net> writes

>I am interested in hearing from conservators who have worked on
>paintings by Gustave Courbet.  I do not have extensive experience
>with this artist and am in the process of conducting an examination
>of a painting that has been offered to a museum in the Midwest.  I
>am particularly interested in the artist's use of supports and
>grounds, as well as his painting technique.

I developed a keen interest in Courbet's painting technique prior to
examining and treating one of his landscapes and seascapes
respectively. I had little success in finding information about
Courbet's painting technique per se. However, I have found the
following relatively recent publications have been, and continue to
be, extremely useful in gaining an understanding of what materials
were available and of the techniques being employed by various
artists in 19th century France.  Techniques of the Impressionists
(1982) and The Art of Impressionism: Painting Technique and the
Making of Modernity (2000) both by Anthea Callen (Emeritus Professor
of Visual Culture at the University of Nottingham). In these books,
Callen does make specific reference to Courbet and touches upon his
manner of painting and his use of materials (supports and grounds).
The images included are lovely and extremely instructive. Leslie
Carlyle's necessary and wonderfully informative The Artist's
Assistant (2001) gives one a great insight into the painting
instruction manuals that were accessible by artist's not only in
Britain, but also in France. Another useful article is Stephanie
Constantin's article on 'The Barbizon painters: a guide to their
suppliers', Studies in Conservation, Vol 46, No.1, 2001 (pgs.49-61).

Having looked closely at several Courbet's executed between
1860-1877, I have noticed some common characteristics in his
paintings- the application of paint with the palette knife, and with
what looks like a heavily loaded, but partially dried, flat brush.
The use of scumbles, of the wet-in-wet and wet-over-dry technique.
It has been noted that Courbet may have had a tendency to apply an
'oiling-out' or varnish layer between paint layers. At times, such
intermediate layers (also noted in the works of Corot and Fantin
Latour) can lead to some confusion over what is original and
non-original paint.

All these deviating methods of paint application render Courbet's
technique complex, but beautifully textural (including scratches in
the paint resulting from the edge of the palette knife). Clearly a
more detailed study into his use of materials and techniques is
needed. Such a study would be hugely beneficial in helping us gain a
better understanding of 19th century painting techniques in general
and of Courbet in particular. I hope this has been of some help to

Devi Ormond
Paintings Conservator
The Kroller-Muller Museum
The Netherlands

                  Conservation DistList Instance 18:56
                  Distributed: Saturday, June 4, 2005
                       Message Id: cdl-18-56-013
Received on Tuesday, 24 May, 2005

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