Artwork of the Week: February 13

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Gustave Courbet, The Trellis. 1950.309

Gustave Courbet (French, 1819–1877), The Trellis. Oil on canvas, 1862. Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey, 1950.309. 43 ¼ x 53 ¼ in., Gallery 33

Gustave Courbet, famous in his day for his confrontational images of peasant life and dramatic landscapes, led a personal campaign to reform art, declaring brashly that artists must represent contemporary life, not imitate the past. This painting of a woman arranging cut flowers on an outdoor trellis reflects Courbet’s realist manifesto, since it presents the young woman not as an antique nymph or allegorical figure, but as a pretty model in contemporary dress. It also elevates flower painting—traditionally considered low on the hierarchy of artistic genres—to a grand scale, the blooms dominating the composition.

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