Gustave Courbet depicted himself as the young artist that he then was, of Bohemian elegance, travelling with his sketchpad and black spaniel in search of subjects to depict. The slim head, still beardless and framed by long black curly locks, reveals the beauty of a self-assured young man already set to conquer Paris.

The low angle viewpoint reveals a country landscape on the right, reminiscent of the steep hilly areas of the Doubs, the region of Courbet’s birth which he loved above anything. He returned there every summer to paint the country around Ornans, near the Jura mountains and Switzerland.

In the bright sky in the background we can see an early use of colour application by knife, a technique subsequently developed by the painter with remarkable dexterity. This portrait, doubtless the first, is part of the series of youthful self-portraits whose date of execution is often difficult to establish. This one belonging to the Petit Palais was exhibited in 1844 under the title Portrait of the author and was number 414 in the catalogue. For the first time Courbet had the satisfaction of seeing one of his works accepted by the Salon.

The painting shows signs of numerous retouches and repaints. It seems to have been originally designed for an arched format, intended perhaps to be hung over a door, as its raised perspective would seem to indicate. The date of 1842 must have been added by Courbet later.

I. C.



City of Paris municipal collection's website

City of Paris municipal collection's website

The online catalogue of the Petit Palais collections includes around 35,000 notes and is added to regularly. Some notes have minimal information; others are more detailed. They are illustrated or they will be shortly.

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Extern databases

Discover a selection of databases online presenting works from the Petit Palais or documents concerning the history of the museum's history.