HumanitiesWeb.org - "Stonebreakers" by Gustave Courbet [Selected Works]
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Stonebreakers

1849: Destroyed during World War II

Courbet's Stonebreakers scandalised the Salon-goers of 1850. Inspired by the "complete expression of human misery" in an encounter with an old road worker in tattered clothes and his young assistant, Courbet asked them to pose for him in his studio. Painting the road workers life size on a large canvas, Courbet showed them absorbed in their task, faceless and anonymous, dulled by the relentless, numbingly repetitive task of breaking stone to build a road. Unflaggingly honest, Courbet, much like Caravaggio in the seventeenth century, violated rules of artistic propriety by setting every detail his lowborn workers' wretched state before the viewer.
 
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