A Real Allegory Summarizing My Seven years of Life as an Artist
1855: Musée du Louvre, Paris
Courbet believed in painting real people at their everyday activities. Here, the subject is his own studio, showing off the new role of the artist in society. On the left are the ordinary models, on the right friends (writers George Sand and Charles Baudelaire are identifiable). Courbet, the artist, takes centre stage in sharp daylight.
Velázquez and Goya had brought the artist into the periphery of compositions, but Courbet went a step further and placed himself as the central figure, perhaps in response to his unkind treatment by the established art juries. The little boy who watches has been likened to the innocent eye of the artist; he might as easily symbolise the unfettered admiration an artist craves.