Saturday in the museum with Gustave

Image: Gustave Courbet, “The Trout” (1873)

We have been tracing the history of still life painting in Europe for the last few months in our Saturday art posts. We are now deep into the 19th century and bumping up against the Impressionists. Before we cross that threshold we take in one more of their predecessors.

This week’s painting is The Trout by Gustave Courbet and is located at the Musée d’Orsay. Courbet painted the piece when in exile following his participation in the Paris Commune. The D’Orsay provides this description:

“After serving six months in prison for his participation in the 1871 Commune, Courbet spent some time in his native Franche-Comté before finally going into exile in Switzerland. During this period he produced several still lifes of fish, inspired by the huge trout caught by the fisherman on the river Loue, which runs through Ornans. The painting in the Musée d’Orsay is a variant of another Trout, of the same size, in the Kunsthaus in Zurich.”

The entry then gets carried away in a bit of French romanticism:

“Courbet follows in the tradition of still lifes of fish painted by the 17th century Dutch masters. But his Trout goes further than these with its dramatic nature. One can clearly see in this image of the fish that has been caught and vanquished, but is still alive, a representation of the painter himself, still prey to the judiciary. Crushed by the hardships he had experienced, Courbet returned, in his last works, to the romantic style of the paintings of his youth. Although there is undeniably a Dutch influence in the painting, Courbet’s powerful individuality shines through in the intense touch, the rough paint and the violent contrasts. The lyricism reveals the despair of the man.”

While we are exiled from our normal lives there are things to do to fend off despair, besides fleeing to Switzerland. We speak, of course, of the pleasures of dining and supporting your favorite local restaurants. If you are in D.C., then you are in luck because we have the best guide to dining in Washington, D.C. on this very site – in LIST or MAP format. Around 300 places that you can sort by cuisine, neighborhood, and current status (dine-in, take-out, delivery, etc.). Throw them some money, show them some love, tip big, and wear a mask.