An Update for the Musée Départemental Gustave Courbet in Ornans

1. Gustave Courbet (1819-1877)
The Oak at Flagey
Oil on Canvas - 89 x 110 cm
Japon, Michimasa Murauchi Collection
Photo : Musée départemental Gustave Courbet

3/9/12 - Patronage, acquisition, exhibition - Ornans, Musée départemental Gustave Courbet - Reopened in 2011 after a three year renovation, the Musée Courbet in Ornans launched a fundraising drive a few weeks ago to purchase a painting by the artist representing The Oak at Flagey (ill. 1) from a Japanese collector, Michimasa Murauchi. The price for the canvas is 4 million euros and an agreement was signed by the Doubs department, represented by the president of the Conseil Général, Claude Jeannot, granting it purchasing priority until 15 October 2012. There is only a month and a half left to go to raise the needed funds.
For the moment, half of the goal has been met. The département will contribute 500,000 to 800,000€, the region has promised 500,000, the heritage fund will provide another 500,000 while the fundraiser has brought together an equivalent amount. Between 1.7 and 2 million euros are therefore still needed, representing a considerable budget but which Claude Jeannot is optimistic will be found by appealing to partner and service companies in the department. In fact, next 19 September the work will be presented to the Commission des trésors nationaux and should be declared of major heritage importance, enabling companies to deduct 90% of their donation from their tax bill. Private individuals can of course continue to join in, knowing that they benefit from a 66% tax exemption of the donation from their income [1].
The purchase of this canvas which had left France in 1898 for the United States and was then acquired by its current Japanese owner in 1987, would constitute a major addition to the national collections. It would also allow the museum to significantly strengthen its holdings, diminished by the dissensions which arose with the Institut Courbet, as the latter kept almost half of the works formerly exhibited in the museum (see article in French).

2. Jean-Baptiste, called Auguste Clésinger (1814-1883)
Pines on the Ile Sainte-Marguerite, c. 1871
Pencil, Gouache
Ornans, Musée Gustave Courbet
Photo : D. R.

Furthermore, a drawing by Jean-Baptiste, known as Auguste Clésinger (ill. 2) was acquired directly from a private collector in Belfort. It represents the Ile Sainte-Marguerite, off the coast of Cannes where the sculptor stayed in 1871 at the home of his wife (from whom he was separated), Solange Sand-Clésinger, the daughter of George Sand.

3. Adolphe Braun (1812-1877)
The Castle of Chillon, c. 1870
Lausanne, Musée de l’Élysée
Photo : Musée de l’Élysée

4. Gustave Courbet (1819-1877)
The Castle of Chillon, 1875
Oil on Canvas - 62.2 x 92.4 cm
Lons-le-Saunier, Musée des Beaux-Arts
Photo : J.-L. Mathieu

Besides its acquisitions, the museum pursues an active exhibitions policy. The one currently showing highlights the ties between photography and painting. True, the subject is often presented but it is so rich that it can afford further study, especially since Gustave Courbet himself was immediately seduced by this art, not the case for many other painters who saw it as a threat to their own activity.
The goal here was not to treat it in an exhaustive manner. The exhibition focuses on three themes - subjects common to both photographers and painters (ill. 3 and 4), the spread of works via photography, the preparation of paintings with photographic negatives taken or ordered by painters... - and some artists or groups of artists - Courbet, of course, the Barbizon school, the Naturalists...

5. Jules-Alexis Muenier (1863-1942)
Preparatory Photography for
In the Beautiful Days, c. 1889
Bradley P. Radichel Subtrust
Photo : Bradley P. Radichel Subtrust

6. Jules-Alexis Muenier (1863-1942)
In the Beautiful Days, 1889
Oil on Canvas
Artist’s Family Collection
Photo : D. R.

The exhibition is remarkably didactic with the catalogue presenting some interesting essays though, true, nothing is really new. However, readers will all learn something. One of the most interesting sections, the one on the Naturalists, uses the example of certain painters, such as Jules Bastien-Lepage, Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret, Jules-Alexis Muenier (ill. 5 and 6), Emile Friant or foreigners such as Albert Edelfelt, to demonstrate that photography replaced drawn studies for many artists in the second half of the 19th century without ever totally eliminating the practice.
Finally, on a more negative note, we would like to point out the surprising lack of fellowship shown by the Bibliothèque nationale de France towards the Musée Courbet. While it benefits from prestigious loans by museums in France (Orsay,Rodin, Lyon...) or abroad (the Uffizi, the Albertina, etc.), the BnF refused to turn over for a few months the photographs which were requested thus obliging the museum to use reproductions.

Peintures murales de l’atelier de Gustave... par latribunedelart

We would like to close this short update of happenings at the Musée Courbet by reminding our readers, and extensively discussed by Bénédicte Bonnet Saint-George here, the upcoming opening of the studio where mural paintings by the artist were recently rediscovered (see the video above) and should soon be restored (we hope the very simple building will be more resoected than was the case for the museum) in 2013.

Exhibition : « A l’épreuve du réel ». Les peintres et la photographie au XIXe siècle. Ornans, Musée départemental Gustave Courbet, from 30 june to 1st october 2012.

Curators : Frédérique Thomas-Maurin, Julie Delmas, Élise Boudon, in collaboration with Morgane Martin.

Collectif, « A l’épreuve du réel ». Les peintres et la photographie au XIXe siècle, 2012, Éditions Fage, 182 p., 29 €. ISBN : 978-2-84975-271-5

Version française

Didier Rykner, mardi 4 septembre 2012


[1] There is a 20% cap on taxable income. We would also like to point out that donors will benefit from the following advantages : for donations between 30 and 60€, one free museum admission ; for donations between 60 and 240€, one or several free admissions or an annual membership ; for donations over 240€, three annual memberships ; for over 500€ an invitation to all of the exhibition inaugurations and the private visits.

imprimer Print this article

Previous article in News Items : The Refurbishing Project for the Saint Saturnin Choir Suspended

Next article in News Items : The French Minister of Culture Opposes Destroying the BnF Staircase