Courbet started the 19th-century movement toward Realism in French painting. In his works he broke sharply with the idealized subject matter of traditional painting. Courbet stated that, unlike the Classicists and Romantics, he would paint only what he could see. His interest in everyday events and average people is illustrated in two of his finest works, The Stonebreakers and A Burial at Ornans (both in the Louvre, Paris).
|The Stonebreakers by Courbet|
Courbet's Realism brought him into conflict with the Salon, the official promoter and organizer of all public exhibitions. In 1855, when the Salon refused Courbet entry into its show, he organized his own exhibition. One of his paintings for this show, The Painter's Studio, is often considered his masterpiece. Courbet's conflict with authority extended to politics, as well as to art. In 1871 he was imprisoned for his part in the Commune, a French Socialist uprising. He escaped to Switzerland, where he died in exile.