“…in our so very civilized society it is necessary for me to live the life of a savage.
— Gustave Courbet
Courbet’s body of work may seem haphazard, and it is hard to pinpoint a particular theme among the landscapes, seascapes, portraits, and erotic imagery. He did, however, approach painting with the same forcefulness that characterized his radical social ideals, and his wish to promote a more Realistic approach to representation. Perhaps his depictions of the sea are not the most literal interpretations of his craving for scandal, but they do embody the innovative quality of his ideas when applied to painting.
The texture of the paint speaks for itself, as the wild brush-and-palette-knife strokes form the turbulent sea of the Normandy coast. It is, perhaps, too gratuitous and irrelevant to immediately attribute his inspiration to Japanese prints based on likeness alone, as Courbet’s masterful savagery was entirely his own.