Monday, June 1, 2009
origin of the world
When Gustave Courbet’s painting “The Origin of the World”(above ) went on permanent display at the Musée d’Orsay in 1995, it was emerging from what must be one of the longest periods of visual quarantine in the history of art. Painted sometime in 1866, for the better part of 130 years it had been cordoned off in private collections, its existence known only to a small group of people, few of whom left any record of the work. Even Courbet, with his swashbuckling disregard for convention, seems for once to have erred on the side of caution. Neither signed nor dated, the picture was never mentioned by him in writing, and it is only on the strength of two small contemporary documents (the report of a dinner at which the painter, never more fulsome than when singing his own praises, likens his little figure to the nudes of Titian and Veronese, and a description by Maxime du Camp so slapdash that one doubts whether he had actually seen the picture with his own eyes) that we can be sure Courbet painted it at all.
Everywhere you turn in the painting’s history, you meet with the same pattern of secrecy and obfuscation. The man thought to have commissioned the picture, a wealthy Turkish-Egyptian diplomat named Khalil Bey, kept it hung behind a green cover in his private dressing room. When Edmond de Goncourt came across it, some twenty-three years later, in 1889, it was concealed by a second Courbet, “Le Château de Blonay”, in a double-bottomed frame. In 1913, it passed into the hands of a Hungarian collector, Baron Ferenc Hatvany, who kept it under lock and key in his town house in Budapest. The last and best-known of the private owners, the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, hung it in his workroom at Guitrancourt, where it was again concealed by a sliding panel, painted by his brother-in-law André Masson. The earliest known reproduction, in an obscure gynaecological publication in 1967, in fact depicts a copy, now missing, but thought to have been made by Magritte. In 1988, the painting was shown in public for the first time, at the “Courbet Reconsidered” exhibition in Brooklyn; today, it hangs in the same room at the Musée d’Orsay as Manet’s “Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe”.
Which brings me to the other photo above. In fact the little boy (who in a way reminds me of ME) is looking up the dress of a little doll, Why you ask? This is an advertisement which can be seen in the metro at the moment, promoting an art fair which opens this weekend in Paris. So what does the little boy and the doll and the painting above have in common...Well of course its Gutave Courbet, one of the greatest painters ever. Not sure the little boy will see such a fruitful view as the Courbet's painting but you can at least try. Its a very clever advertisement and I suppose if you were not aware of the beautiful painting 'Origin of the world' the advertisement would mean very little.........Thank god for French art education.