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Artist: Courbet, Gustave 1 of 7 Previous Previous | Next Next

Apples, Pears, and Primroses on a Table, 1871-1872

Gustave Courbet

French, 1819-1877
Oil on canvas
23-1/2 x 28-3/4 in. (59.7 x 73 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation
M.1999.2.1.P
© Norton Simon Art Foundation

On view

Gustave Courbet had favored the careful removal of the Vendôme Column in 1870, but he was not responsible for the total destruction of the Napoleonic symbol during the Paris Commune a year later. Nevertheless, the politically outspoken artist was sentenced to six months in prison at Ste.-Pélagie for its demise. This superb painting is the largest and most successful of the fifteen still lifes Courbet inscribed with the words “Ste.-Pélagie” in the years 1871–72. The bounty of the red and yellow fruits placed in an obviously bourgeois sitting room with its fireplace, gilded clock and landscape painting provides a powerful contrast to the life experienced in his prison cell. However, the work was not in fact painted while he was in prison. Rather, it was completed while the artist convalesced in a clinic for the second half of his sentence. Thus, the deliberate inclusion of the inscription alongside the very palpable heap of apples, pears and blooming primroses suggests that Courbet could not and would not be stifled by his imprisonment.

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Artist: Courbet, Gustave 1 of 7 Previous Previous | Next Next