17 1/2 x 21 1/2 in. (44.5 x 54.6 cm)
(Ornans, France, 1819 – 1877, La Tour-de-Peilz, Switzerland)
Medium and Support:
Oil on canvas
Marion Stratton Gould Fund
Location: Currently on view
Painting is an essentially concrete art and can only consist in the representation of real and existing things.
- Gustave Courbet (1861)
Courbet was the leading painter of a movement called Realism. Many French citizens began to advocate for democratic and socialist reforms after the Revolution of 1848 overturned the monarchy of King Louis-Philippe. Realist painters depicted modern subjects drawn from the everyday lives of the working class.
The subject matter of The Stonebreaker is similar to that of Courbet’s The Stonebreakers, which Courbet exhibited at the Salon in 1850. The earlier painting, destroyed in World War II, depicted two men dressed in heavy, tattered clothing crushing rocks near a road. Because of its raw and, according to some viewers, politically motivated subject matter, The Stonebreakers was extremely controversial with the French public. The Gallery’s The Stonebreaker, painted over 20 years later, reflects a more intimate view of the laborer, solitary as he eats his midday meal.