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The Most Arrogant Man in France: Gustave Courbet and the Nineteenth-Century Media Culture by Petra ten-Doesschate Chu

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Publisher : Princeton University Press
Binding : Hardcover
Pages : 248
Publication Date : 4/1/2007
Condition : BRAND NEW
The modern artist strives to be independent of the public's taste--and yet depends on the public for a living. Petra Chu argues that the French Realist Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) understood this dilemma perhaps better than any painter before him. In The Most Arrogant Man in France, the first comprehensive reinterpretation of Courbet in a generation, Chu tells the fascinating story of how, in the initial age of mass media and popular high art, this important artist managed to achieve an unprecedented measure of artistic and financial independence by promoting his work and himself through the popular press. The Courbet who emerges in Chu's account is a sophisticated artist and entrepreneur who understood that the modern artist must sell--and not only make--his art. Responding to this reality, Courbet found new ways to "package," exhibit, and publicize his work and himself. Chu shows that Courbet was one of the first artists to recognize and take advantage of the publicity potential of newspapers, using them to create acceptance of his work and to spread an image of himself as a radical outsider. Courbet introduced the independent show by displaying his art in popular venues outside the Salon, and he courted new audiences, including women. And for a time Courbet succeeded, achieving a rare freedom for a nineteenth-century French artist. If his strategy eventually backfired and he was forced into exile, his pioneering vision of the artist's career in the modern world nevertheless makes him an intriguing forerunner to all later media-savvy artists. From Publishers Weekly In this insightful book, Chu (who edited and translated Gustave Courbet's letters) examines how the painter (1819–1877) used the press to market his work. Courbet, who once called himself "the proudest and most arrogant man in France," relished any kind of publicity and courted journalists, critics and editors who reviewed his work and published letters in which he explained his paintings and expounded his antiestablishment philosophy. He claimed that art could not be taught and that it should not be controlled by the state, and his paintings often attacked such institutions as the church and the academy. Analyzing many of these paintings, Chu shows how their subtly subversive content caused public debate while eluding the censors. Courbet's proudest moment came in 1870, when he refused a knighthood cross in the French Legion of Honor and published a letter saying that the state was "incompetent in matters of art." But facing punishment for participating in the riots of 1871, he fled to Switzerland and died there several years later. Chu's brilliant study of Courbet's paintings and marketing strategies sheds much light on his work and the artistic milieu of the 19th century. B&w and color illus. (May) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.