[Rossetti, William Michael]. "Fine Arts: Fine Arts Section of the Paris Exhibition–No. III." Spectator 28.1424 (13 Oct. 1855), 1062-1063.


Courbet is another representative man of the school [of Realism]; but so exalté, that, shooting out of sight of such men as might be called his colleagues, he represents little except himself and his direct imitators. His "Burial at Ornans," exhibited in 1850, created that amount of noise, abuse, and disputation, which is immediate fame; and he has since occupied in France, as the apostle of "Realism," a position somewhat analogous to that of the Præraphaelites in England. Admiring Courbet as we heartily do, both from sympathy with the movement which he belongs to and on compulsion from his own force, we cannot admit the analogy, however, without very serious restrictions. Actual resemblance in method there is none whatever: the Frenchman is the roughest of the rough, the Englishmen the most exquisite of the elaborated. The first paints with a scrubbing-brush clotted with coarse paint and chalk-grits; the second, with a fine camel’s hair dipped in the choicest and purest tints of the palette. A more radical difference even is the mode of looking at nature, and the conception of the thing to be achieved. Courbet seems to think that whatever he sees is what he ought to paint; he never invents a subject, but copies a fact. "The Stone-breakers" is a couple of men breaking stones, painted on a large scale broadly; and absolutely nothing more. . . .

But it never occurs to him that real sincerity in art must be exercised first of all in the invention of the subject; that his function is to translate the sentiment of things as well as to exhibit their conformation; of that love and reverence, far rather than the "hail-fellow-well-met" spirit, is the true artist’s relation to Nature. The vitality of the English Præraphaelites consists in their having remembered these fundamental truths.

This document was scanned/transcribed from the original source.

Copyright © 1999 Thomas J. Tobin.

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