Showing posts with label Courbet. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Courbet. Show all posts

June 9, 2014

Art or Crime: Performance artist Deborah De Robertis re-enacts Courbet's "L'origine du monde" in Musee d'Orsay

Performance artist Deborah De Robertis in Musée d'Orsay
(Luxemburger Wort, screenshot of YouTube video)
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

As reported by Luxemburger Wort last week in "Luxembourg artist flashes Paris museum-goers", performance artist Deborah De Robertis exposed her female genitalia in front of Gustave Courbet's L'origine du monde (1866) in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris on May 29:
Dressed in a gold sequin dress, the artist walked into the museum on May 29, sat down below the painting and spread her legs to reveal her vagina in a reflection of the artwork, which shows a woman's genitals and abdomen under the title The Origin of the World. A museum guard alerted police who took De Robertis into custody for indecent exposure. However, the prosecution decided not to press charges and the Luxembourg artist was released. Speaking to, De Robertis explained that her performance was not simply an act of exhibitionism, but a reflected action, creating a new tableau in play with the original artwork. An invitation to the performance, distributed to a limited number of people, said that De Robertis aims to destabilise power relations, as well as reflecting on relationships between men and women, and artists and control over their work.
The video De Robertis posted on YouTube shows the performance artist somberly performing while two security guards engage with the artist and a supportive -- as evidenced by their clapping -- audience. Museum officials are shown to be clearing the room while the artist performs.

Here another video shows the new gallery at the Musée d'Orsay dedicated to the larger paintings by Gustave Courbet -- and a close up of the controversial L'origine du monde which entered the French national collection in 1995. It was originally in the collection of Khalil-Bey, an Ottoman diplomat and art collector. Last year, the foremost Courbet scholar claimed to have found the "face" of "L'Origine du Monde".

March 17, 2013

Sunday, March 17, 2013 - , No comments

Courbet Museum in Ornans welcomes home "The Oak of Flagey" from Japan after French town raises purchase price

Gustave Courbet, The Oak of Flagey, 1864
Today in Ornans the Courbet Museum provides free admission for public view of the 4 million euro painting local inhabitants helped purchased from Japan last year to return to Gustave Courbet's hometown. You may read more here in France 24 in "French town raises 4 million euros to bring Courbet painting home".

The Oak of Flagey (The Oak of Vercingetorix) painted in 1864 was formerly exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia before entering the collection of Michimasa Murachi in Japan.  

February 11, 2013

Paris Match Reports Jean Jacques Fernier's confirmation that found painting belongs to Courbet's "L'Origine du Monde'

Courbet's L'Origine du Monde (1866) on display
in 2009 at Musée d'Orsay in Paris
/Photo by C. Sezgin
The feminist painting L'Origine du Monde in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris now has a face according to Courbet expert Jean Jacques Fernier (he continued the work of his father Robert who published the artist's catalogue raisonné).

In 1866, Courbet painted a woman's torso with her vagina on display and her legs opened for Ottoman diplomat and art collector Khalil-bey who sold the work two years later before becoming ambassador to Vienna. The painting was owned by five private collections before entering the Musée d'Orsay in 1995.  Khalil-bey reportedly contracted syphilis from a prostitute in St. Petersburg and sold the painting in 1868 to settle gambling debts. 

Last week Paris Match posted Fernier's video explaining why the newly discovered painting of a woman's head belongs to the model in L'Origine du Monde. The work was reportedly purchased for 1,400 euros from a Parisian antiques dealer in 2010.  Fernier believes that the unsigned painting was cut off from the canvas of L'Origine du Monde.  The model is believed to be Joanna Hiffernan, an Irish artist's model romantically linked to both Courbet and the American painter James Abbott Whistler. It should be noted that a critic quoted in a competitive media outlet, Le Figaro, disputes the attribution of the painting. 

Here are some thoughts from ARCA Lecturer Tom Flynn on the discussion with a focus on psychoanalysis and the painting.


June 11, 2012

Anniversary of Gustave Courbet's Birth and the Number of Stolen Courbet Paintings Reported by Interpol

Courbet's Coastal Landscape in North of France/Interpol
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Huffington Post contributor Priscilla Frank saluted Gustave Courbet's birth on June 10, 1819 with a tribute to the artist and a selection of ten of her favorite paintings.

On the ARCA blog, we've covered a Courbet painting stolen from a gallery in Swansea, Wales in 1957; a landscape stolen from the Montreal Museum of Fine Art in 1972; and a Nazi-era looted painting of a dead deer.

Interpol's Stolen Art Database lists 10 works by Courbet that remain stolen (identified by their Interpol titles in English): Coast Scene with Cliffs and Breaking Waves (Swansea, 1957); Self-Portrait (Italy, 1971); Landscape with Rocks and Steam (Canada, 1972); Head of a Young (France, 1981); Standing Man (Switzerland, 1984); La Mer (Switzerland, 1992); Stream of Consolation (France, 1997); Landscape (Paraguay, 2002); Coastal Landscape In North of France (Switzerland, 2008); and   Shot Deer (Slovenia, 2010).

November 8, 2010

Revisiting the Cultural Plunder Database

Biche more, Gustave Courbet, Musée d'Orsay, Paris
Revisiting the “Cultural Plunder by the Einsatzstab Richsleiter Rosenberg: Database of Art Objects at the Jeu de Paume”

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin

The database of stolen art from Jewish French and Belgian collectors processed through the Jeu de Paume in Paris from 1940 to 1944 has received more than 11,000 visits from 97 countries since its public release three weeks ago.

The database, which can be accessed at, is a Joint Project of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum with the cooperation of the Bundesarchiv (The German Federal Archives), France Diplomatie: Diplomatic Archive Center of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, and The United States National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

The website for the database also includes a photo gallery of the Nazi’s “Special Task Force”, the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR), processing art works through the center of Paris and another section of works of art considered objectionable (“Degenerate”) by the Nazis – works by artists such as Max Ernst, Salvardor Dalí, and Kees van Dongen.

Users can browse by art owners, by collection, or by artist. Information about the art includes measurements, a title in German, and the name of the owner and the collection and in many cases, whether or not the painting or artwork was restituted to its wartime owner.

An 1857 painting by Gustave Courbet (titled in German Totes Re him Walde or in French Biche morte) entered the Jeu de Paume between September and October of 1942. It was considered for a possible exchange, but was returned to France in 1949. In 1951, the French national museum collection placed it into into the Louvre until 1954 when it was sent to the Musée National Ahmed Zabana in Oran. The painting stayed in Algeria for 31 years until it was stolen in October of 1985.

A painting “considered for exchange” indicates that the ERR staff wanted to trade the painting with art dealers as “payment-in-kind” for works of art desired by Hermann Goering and other Nazi dignitaries for their collections or for the Reich.

Sixteen years later, a reproduction of the same painting, now under the new title of Chevreuil Mort/Dead Deer, appeared in an auction catalogue for a sale scheduled at the George V Hotel in Paris on December 19, 2001. Recognizing the stolen the painting, the French museums rquested that the painting be withdrawn from the sale. It was seized by the police, then transferred to the musée d’Orsay on October 29, 2002.

The ERR Collection Name was “MA-B” or “Möbel-Aktion Bilder”, a category of more than 1,300 matches. "Möbel Aktion" means that it was ‘Operation Furniture’ that the work was removed from a Jewish home. “Bilder” means it was a picture. However, the original owner was not identified by the Nazis and the painting has not been returned to that family.

Could the family who owned that painting make a claim for the return of their painting today? We asked this question to Marc Masurovsky, the project’s director and a consultant to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

“If it is the same painting and was not recovered by a legitimate owner and there is someone who can attest to be the rightful owner of the work, that person can make a claim for the unrecovered object,” Masurovsky wrote in an email. “As you know, the database is a work in progress and much information still needs to be added, especially with respect to the postwar fate of many of the works and objects described in the database.”

November 2, 2010

October 24, 2010

Sunday, October 24, 2010 - , 1 comment

Courbet Painting Stolen from Swansea Still Missing After 53 years

By Catherine Schofield Sezgin

October 24th is the 53rd anniversary of the theft of a Courbet seascape stolen from an art gallery in Swansea, Wales. Coast Scene with Cliffs and Breaking Waves was on loan to the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery’s for a traveling exhibition when it disappeared on a Friday morning while the gallery was open.

INTERPOL, the international police organization, reports the painting as the earliest of the stolen Courbet paintings in its database of stolen works of art that has been publishing such information since 1947. INTERPOL has allowed online access to this database to “reduce illicit trade” since August 2009.

The 19th century painting is described as a “dark picture, depicting a leaden cloudy sky and dark green sea.” The 24 by 18 inch (60 by 45 centimeter) oil painting, which at the time was estimated to be valued at 3,000 to 5,000 pounds, was one of 33 paintings included in the exhibition French Painting from Romanticism to Realism: Gustave Courbet, Honoré Daumier, Eugene Delacroix, Jean-François Millet and Carle Venet. The theft occurred one week before the exhibit was scheduled to close.

The painting’s absence was noted during a routine inspection when the empty frame was found. Police investigators speculated that the work could have been smuggled out in a satchel between 10 and noon on that Friday morning when a staff member left the room. The police dusted the abandoned frame for fingerprints although they had originally hoped that the theft had been a prank and that the painting would be returned over the weekend.

The painting had been on loan to the art gallery for two months. The owner of the painting, David C. T. Thomas, a London-Welshman, told a reporter in 1957 that he had purchased the work in 1955 from a London dealer, and that the painting had been the most valuable of his small collection. The painting was in the collection of “A. Paroissen” until it was sold at Christie’s London in July, 1894, the Evening Post reported, and the painting is signed “G. Courbet.”

Gustave Courbet, the son of a prosperous vintner and landowner, pursued painting outside of academic training. Courbet spent six weeks in Etretat in the late summer of 1869, during which he earned commissions from either his dealers, or his clients, who were “hoping to obtain the work of a famous place by a famous artist.” He painted 14 canvases showing Etretat’s cliffs and several dozen views of the sea. The Musée d’Orsay in Paris has two seascapes painted in 1970, “La falaise d’Etretat après l’orage” (“Cliff at Etretat after a Storm”) and “La Vague” (“The Wave”).

The stolen painting is not easily traced in the publications about Courbet’s works. Patricia Pate Havlice’s World Painting Index, published in 1977, does not list the titles of either “Coast Scene with Cliffs and Breaking Waves” (all the titles are in English) or “Leaden Sky Over a Raging Sea.” Robert Fernier’s “Vie et l’oeuvre de Gustave Courbet: catalogue raisonné”, published by the Wildenstein Foundation in 1978, also published more than 20 years after the theft, does not include an image that would match the painting stolen from the Welsh gallery that was sold in London in the 1950s. If it is difficult to trace the provenance of the painting, how difficult would it be to identify the painting today?

The thief did not have to be an art dealer or historian to know that the painting was valuable. The curator of the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery had written in an article in the local newspaper, the Evening Post, “It would not be an exaggeration to say that never have so many masterpieces been brought together within its walls before.” The missing painting was described as “one of the greatest examples of landscape painting,” according to the Evening Post. Why did the thief steal only the Courbet and not the other famous works of art? Did (s)he have a special attachment to that particular painting, or was it easier to steal than the others?

The newspapers reported on the theft with headlines, such as “Masterpiece is Stolen in Swansea” (Evening Post, October 25, 1957); “Did a Fanatic Steal the Painting? Difficult to sell work by well-known artist” (Evening Post, October 26); “Art gallery masterpiece stolen” (Evening Post, October 26); and “Search goes on for picture thief” (Evening Post, October 28). An image of the painting was also published in the Evening Post on October 30 under the title “Leaden Sky over a Raging Sea.”

INTERPOL’s stolen art works database features two other missing seascapes: “La Mer” stolen from Rochefort, Switzerland in August 1992, and “Coastal Landscape in North of France” (painted in 1866) stolen from Kilchberg, Switzerland in January 2008. Eight other Courbet paintings have been reported stolen to Interpol: a self-portrait in 1971 from Italy; the head of a youth from France in 1981; a "Standing Man" from Switzerland in 1984; a "Shot Deer" from Slovenia in 2010; and four landscapes (Canada in 1972; France in 1997; Paraguay in 2002; and Switzerland in 2008).

The Courbet landscape stolen from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 1972 had been publicized as a valuable painting in the newspapers before the nighttime robbery of the museum when three men entered an unsecured skylight and stole more than 18 paintings – including works by Daumier, Delacroix, and Millet.

The website Art Theft Central (Courbet Painting Recovered, December 3, 2009) cited a report from the Associated Press that the French police had found a Courbet painting stolen in 2004, “The Wave”, at the house of an employee from the Paris auction house, Hôtel Drouot. At the time, “The Wave” was not listed as stolen by INTERPOL.


Herbert, Robert L. “Monet on the Normandy Coast: Tourism and Painting, 1867-1886.” Yale University Press, 1996.

INTERPOL, stolen works of art database,

Fernier, Robert. Vie et l’oeuvre de Gustave Courbet: catalogue raisonné. Tome II, Pentures: 1866-1877, Fondation Wildenstein, 1978.

“Masterpiece is Stolen in Swansea,” Evening Post, October 25, 1957.

“Did a Fanatic Steal the Painting?”, Evening Post, October 26, 1957.

"Search goes on for picture thief," Evening Post, October 28, 1957.

"Art Gallery masterpiece stolen," Evening Post, October 26, 1957.

"Missing Painting," Evening Post, October 30, 1957.