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Video transcript

[Music] we're in the Musee d'Orsay in Paris looking at Gustave Courbet is the burial adorned on which corbeil said was his beginning his manifesto this was a painting that expressed what he thought painting should be large paintings were supposed to be historical heroic allegorical or religious but this is a genre painting this is a painting of everyday life and according to the rules of the Academy it had no business being on a canvas this large genre paintings were small history paintings were big that was the rule but here we have an ordinary funeral a group of ordinary figures in an ordinary place but what I love is that when corbeil submitted this painting to the jury he submitted it as a history painting and he must have considered it to be a history painting of a our world now the subject matter promoted by the Academy asked artists to tirelessly repeat the same subjects from ancient Greek and Roman history and mythology and religious subjects and corbeil wanted to paint his own day his own time in fact he said an epic can only be reproduced by its own artists I hold the artists of one century basically incapable of reproducing the aspect of a past or future century so corbeil is painting his world the world that he grew up in in fact these are each individual portraits many of them members of Corby's own family this is the funeral of Corbis great-uncle so to submit a painting to the jury of the salon the jury that decided which paintings could be hung in the official exhibitions called salons and not even say the name of the person who's being buried Courbet is definitely making a statement here so what is he saying well for one thing he's bringing the experience of rural life into the capital of France and trying to bring it into the most elite environment for the Arts in effect her own sizing the ordinary her oversizing common humanity look what corbeil has put in the middle of this composition the grave but also the gravedigger corby gives this simple laborer a kind of dignity that is completely unexpected in mid 19th century painting the Revolution of 1848 ended the monarchy and ushered in the Second Republic and it is during this period of realism that we see artists turning to figures of laborers of workers and showing them in Anna Noble and heroic manner Courbet has composed the painting so that all the figures are pushed up to the foreground well though there is a bit of meandering back and forth well that's because in the center foreground is a grave that opens into our space Courbet has created a horizontal frieze in contrast to a vertically oriented canvas that we might expect in a renaissance painting at where a figure would be assumed into heaven where we would see angels where we would see the clouds parting where we would see the possibility for redemption the divine is represented by a crucifix which is carried by one of the clergymen so the only sense of the divine is actually physical the painting is provided roughly into three groups at the left is the clergy in fact we can see the pallbearers carrying the coffin in from the left in front of the coffin we can see it with the priest and towards the center town officials and to their right women mourning and each of these different types of figures were treated equally one art historian has called this democracy in painting and the faces of the figures and their poses have not been idealized but one of my favorite aspects of this painting is the hunting dog in a traditionally composed painting perhaps one for the salon one would not allow a dog to be represented unless it functions symbolically this hunting dog seems as if it's just wandered by and in a sense corbeil is using it as an emblem of the authenticity of the experience that a dog might in fact wander by but some of the figures here are truly mourning but others look distracted and I think it's a lack of a focal point there's no one place where our eye is drawn that does give us that sense of the normal distractions of life even at a Funeral even an event that marks the death of a beloved family member there's the realities of everyday life that intrude that's probably most clearly represented by the child at the extreme right edge of the canvas who seems completely involved in her own thought suggesting a kind of interior experience that is central to poor Bayes belief and I think that speaks to another radical aspect of this painting which is a lack of interaction between the figures in an academic painting destined for the salon following the rules of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts figures interact they have gestures that are readable that tell us a story but here you're right each figure is very much alone with their thoughts none of the gestures are helping to guide our attention or to tell us a story there are references to the history of painting we can just make out at Skull a reference perhaps to the skull at the base of the cross in representations of the crucifixion but the skull looks discarded the crucifixion is a representation it's a sculpture we are firmly planted in the modern world Courbet I think said this best he said painting is essentially a concrete art and can only consist of the representation of real and existing things it is a completely physical language the words of which consists of all visible objects an object which is abstract not visible non-existent is not within the realm of painting he said show me an angel and I'll paint one you