A blog about the 19th century and now

A blog about the 19th century and now

About the blog


From my perspective as a visual art practitioner I will research two areas of interest.The first being 19th century French history painting and the second the attitude of the artists towards the free and censored press. I will connect this research with contemporary developments and my personal artistic engagement. Through blog posts I will reflect on the works I have created and the sources I have used, but essentially the focus will be directed towards the future.

On disappearing

StonebreakersPosted by Stijn Peeters Mon, November 19, 2018 10:08:15

It seems quite likely that my mother-in -law, Mien Thissen-Mulder, found this book while browsing in the second-hand shop where her sister Doortje volunteered. It is called ‘De schilderkunst der XIXe eeuw’, (painting of the 19th century) written by Léonce Bénédite, curator of the Musée de Luxembourg, its date 1910. And, as was her habit, she must have asked her daughter, my wife, “do you think Stijn has any use for this?’ I haven’t seen it for a long time but now that I started this blog I’m glad I kept it because it offers many interesting starting points.

The Paris Bibliotheque Nationale is the keeper of ‘Courbet, Gustave (1819-1877) Critique et interprétation’ a biography and critical essay written by Léonce Bénédite. I intend to translate it from the French and read it because I’m curious about the content. I will come back to that later on. If you want to read it already you can find it here:
https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k5516489g/texteBrut

Curiouser and curiouser I get ( thank you Lewis Carroll ! ) by reading this fragment from an article by Oliver Larkin, titled; ‘Courbet and his contemporaries, 1848-1867’ (Science & Society,Vol. 3, No. 1 (Winter, 1939), pp. 42-63)

“Because Courbet was so long a prophet without honor in his own country, a large proportion of his work is owned by museums and collectors outside France. Many phases of his career, notably his activities during the Commune, are still imperfectly understood. Before 1900 scarcely a single French art journal of repute cared to publish material on the painter. Belatedly in 1919, when New York’s Metropolitan Museum was honouring the centenary of his birth, France bought the Atelier for seven hundred thousand francs. Two years later, Léonce Bénédite was invited to represent the State at the unveiling of a tablet placed on Courbet’s birthplace at Ornans. The curator of the Luxembourg declined to attend the ceremony on the ground that he had “received counter-instructions”.

This is a page from my book.


The caption under the reproduction of ‘The Studio’ still gives Collection Desfossés as its owner, and the caption under ‘the Stonebreakers simply mentions Museum, Dresden. The enlarged image shows that an error occured, it is the wrong painting. This, mirrored, version is today in the Collection Oskar Reinhart, Winterthur.


But it looks like a very different painting when I study the reproduction on the site of the Oskar Reinhart Collection. It seems to have darkened almost beyond recognition. Time and the use of bitumen in the paint have done their work. Courbet painted it in 1849, the book for publishing house Flammarion was produced in 1905, the work was possibly photographed at the time that the painting was 55 years old. And now the painting’s age is 169 years, so the discoloration took place over a period of 110 years. The effects of bitumen are common knowledge and many of Courbet’s works fade into darkness, an extra stimulant is his preference to work on dark tinted canvases.


This is the painting from the Dresden Museum collection. Together with 154 other paintings it was loaded in februari 1945 into a van and on transport from the Zwinger Museum in Dresden to Königstein Castle (The King’s Rock). In times of conflict this was a well known practice. The castle offered sufficient protection. But the road did not, the danger came from above. The transport was bombed by Allied planes.

December of last year I was offered a working period in a guest studio of the Vincent van GoghHuis in Zundert. I was able to go deep into van Gogh’s work and his engagement , and made a lot of painted monotype prints on the small etching press I brought along. After you have printed the image, the printing plate still shows a shadow of it on which you can react again with ink. Degas was very accomplished in this technique. I was fascinated to try out one of the possibilities I hadn’t experimented with and that was the ‘black manner’. With ink you cover the whole surface of the printing plate and start working back from dark to light by using brushes, cloth, sticks and fingers to delve up the image. It is a slow and time-consuming manner of working resulting in just one ‘good’ print. To start with I chose a reproduction of ‘the Stonebreakers’, the lost Dresden version.

The first fully inked print. And without adding any more ink to the plate I made three more prints on pink tinted paper, gradually losing more and more of the image.


Stijn Peeters 2018.



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Positions

CensorshipPosted by Stijn Peeters Tue, November 13, 2018 13:59:45


Last week I bought this book and it is exactly what I hoped it would be. The book by Goldstein published in 1989 gives a historical overview of censorship-practices and cases. It also provides me with a lot of information and reference material on the role of the media and the way opinions are formed and influenced then and in my own time. My artistic work will benefit from it. I will certainly use information gained from this book in future blog texts.

After 1822 the printed word was not subject to prior censorship anymore, but the possibility of postpublication prosecution loomed over the press, and could lead to fines and prohibitions. The creators and the publishers of caricatures however were subjected to prior censorship. Every change in leadership and political system created its own version of press-liberty or restriction. Thus prior censorship of caricatures was eliminated in 1814, restored in 1820, abandoned again in 1830, re-established in 1835, ended once more in 1848, reimposed in 1852, abolished again in 1870, decreed once more in 1871, and finally ended permanently in 1881.

Between 1830 and 1914 some 350 caricature magazines and newspapers were published in France. This amount shows that the most wellknown caricaturist of his days, Daumier was one of many.

A distinction between written and drawn agitation could be found , according to contemporaneous comments, in the difference between intellect and feeling, the slow process of reading , considerations made and options weighed during the process was incomparable to the immediate response to inflammable imagery. Images were immediately understood by the, mostly, illiterate majority of the population, a group the authorities feared was easy to manipulate and called into action. As a longtime user of Facebook I am familiar with the sudden emotions some images with a short accompanying text can trigger. Scrolling and swiping creates a dynamic that has an uneasy relationship with the reading of long texts. How much sympathy you may feel for the person who wrote it. At times a fast ‘like’ to suppress a feeling of guilt is the most attainable reward for my active ‘friend’s’ labours.

The continuous attention of the censors must have had a great impact on the artists who drew the caricatures. In defence they often referred to their artistic freedom, the ‘liberty de crayon’. The authorities also made similar distinctions. In 1829 the interior minister told his prefects, concerning the circulation of Napoleonic images, "In general, that which can be permitted without difficulty when it is a question of expensive engravings, or lithographs intended only to illustrate an important [i.e., expensive] work, would be dangerous and must be forbidden when these same subjects are reproduced in engravings and lithographs at a cheap price."

One can argue that works that are functioning in the realm of the arts are viewed as more neutral than works that aim for mass-communication and call for direct emotional response.


Philip Guston went from figuration to abstract expressionism, a route a lot of his colleagues followed but his decision to turn back to figuration was heavily criticized. About his motives for this switch he said; . “The war, what was happening in America, the brutality of the world. What kind of a man am I sitting at home, reading magazines, going into a frustrated fury about everything – and then going into my studio to adjust a red to a blue? I thought there must be some way I could do something about it.” At the beginning of the 70’s he made a series of drawings in which he dealt with, then, president Richard Nixon, the ‘Poor Richard-series”.

Initially he wanted to publish the drawings as comic books, but decided to keep them in the studio. A reason for this decision may have been the storm of critique that followed his move away from abstraction. It was a big thing in the artworld and former colleagues and critics blamed of treason. Maybe Guston didn’t need yet another complication as this kind of work could be seen as being too anecdotic and functional.

The conflicts between abstraction and figuration in the artworld seem to have disappeared in time, whole generations of artists cannot imagine that it was ever an issue.

In her artistic response to the Vietnam War Judith Bernstein took a feminist perspective. Her imagery derives from ( men’s ) bathroom-graffity , the screw as a symbol for phallic repression and violence in general. In her career she engaged herself with organisations like “the Guerilla Girls” and the “Fight Censorship Group”. At the age of 75 she showed a group of drawings (at New York’s Drawing Center) that she had made as a reaction on Donald Trump’s nomination as a candidate and the following victory in the election to become America’s president. She must have been shocked to the core of her being in the realization that all she had fought for all her life seemed to have made no difference. In het drawings she chooses to represent DT as ‘Schlongface’. In an article for elephant.art she says; “My work is crude, but it’s not obscene. It’s not sexually arousing, it’s done for a political reason.”

Scatology is a regularly occurring theme in caricature and folk art. A well known example is the Gargantua print by Daumier, in it you can see King Louis Philippe sitting on a large throne or toilet, being fed money and defacating laws and favours on paper. Another print by Traviès shows the same King in the form of a barrel in which the collective shit of a neighborhood was collected. The pearshaped barrel stands on small elegant feet.

Bernstein operates mainly in the artworld. Ward Sutton positions himself as a maker of caricatures explicitly in the public domain. His drawings are published in a wide range of magazines and newspapers, such as ‘The New York Times ,Rolling Stone, Time, The Nation, Entertainment Weekly and New Yorker. Under the pseudonym ‘Kelly’ , published in the ‘Onion’ he poses as a cartoonist from the ‘other side’ of the political spectrum, a strategy that can leave one with akward uneasy feelings. On his website ‘Sutton Impact’ he shown his continuing engagement with political and social actuality. In preparation for the midterm elections he offered free election posters to download and print , he writes; Please feel free to share these images and links! A wonderful gesture and I’m sure one that contributed to the positive result for the Democratic Party.

Sources: Photo Judith Bernstein by Donald Stahl.

Judith Bernstein, Drawing Center exhibition catalogue; https://issuu.com/drawingcenter/docs/drawingpapers133_judithbernstein

Ward Sutton’s website; http://www.suttonimpactstudio.com/







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How simple can your first Daumier be?

The studio...Posted by Stijn Peeters Tue, November 06, 2018 09:59:41


This little reproduction from a booklet about Daumier caught my eye, because of the theme of it and because of the relative ‘clumsiness’ that appealed to me. It has the look of a first version of an idea, a rough sketch that was never realized, I really liked the idea that I could ‘finish’ a sketch by Daumier . I thought about the question ‘can you be so drunk that the table gets stuck to you?’. The book is in German and the work is titled Trunkenbolde, which means something like ‘boozers’ and I guess that is exactly what the image communicates. The size is 24,5 x 26,2 cm, the technique oil paint on paper, glued to wood and the work is mentioned as coming from the collection Roger Leybold. ( 1896-1970) This owner of an industrial brewery had a large collection of paintings, drawings, prints and letters by Delacroix, Daumier, Jongkind, Corot and Boudin. A certain ’Madame X’ is mentioned by auction house Drouot as the heir of the Leybold collection. It is possible that this work was auctioned on the 17th of November 1982 .

To start I copied the work by making a small etching, the printing plate on the left and the print on the right.


After this the man leaning on the table top shows up on three paintings of 1998. As a description of the individual works I used the abbreviation M.A. for Molino Alto, ( M.A. 11, M.A. 3 and M.A.1 are shown) a reference to the old watermill in Niguelas, Spain that we rented in the spring of 1998 for a period of three months from the Scottish poet Martin Bates. These works are made during this time.






This painting , M.A.1, was raffled during a national tv broadcast. In a programme called AVRO’s Kunstblik, a nice studio visit was filmed with the former director of the Arnhem Modern Art Museum Liesbeth Brandt Corstius as reporter.

After our return back to the Netherlands I made this painting, its title Nr 794, also not very creative and referring to the number of paintings I started on since moving to Eindhoven in 1987. Because you never can be sure if a work you start on will reach the endstage, there are missing numbers of destroyed paintings, mostly victims of complex transition periods). The work measures 130 x 200 cm and contains all the elements of the Works made in Spain, the ‘Daumier’-figure, the table with influences from Dutch genre tavern scenes, my then 3 year old first son drawing , the inn and the ‘fincas’ along the river with the olivetrees and the highway bridge in the direction of Granada spanning the valley. The painting was shown in an exhibition at Oele Gallery in Amsterdam September 1998


I will go into the Spanish period in later posts





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Advice to younger colleagues

The studio...Posted by Stijn Peeters Fri, November 02, 2018 11:21:17

From the very moment you made the brave, overconfident, reckless, socially inconvenient decision to apply at an art academy, I have seen you as a young colleague. I, too, decided I was going to be an artist when I was 17. A little hesitant at first, I spent my time around art, but more so on the applied side of things, which seemed to offer a little more financial stability. But after graduating, I took the plunge. I turned 60 last year and haven’t regretted my choice for even a single day. I couldn’t have wished for a more fulfilling life.

Now this is the part where I’d talk about the downsides – they do exist, but I’ll put it off for a while as you’re already getting hit over the head with downsides in this day and age.

I was probably quite headstrong and curious about studying everything I didn’t know yet, very much at ease with contemplating, reading and observing. Realise that we didn’t have smartphones or computers, and unless you wrote letters or used a landline to make phonecalls, you could be out of touch with everyone but the people in your direct surroundings for months. I recall the oceans of spare time, the boredom, but also the freedom to pick up whatever captured my fascination. I had no learning goals or a master plan whatsoever, but I was aware that I knew very little indeed. Newspapers, literature, poetry, history, philosophy, the bible, biographies, even encyclopaedias – I read everything I could get my hands on, often several books at once. Sometimes I wouldn’t be sure why I even picked up a book after having finished it, at my wits’ end that I didn’t have the intellectual capacity to comprehend the writing, let alone to contextualise it.

Having been trained as an illustrator, I suffered from an abundance of effect-oriented mannerisms; my drawings were focused on visual niceties, and were disconnected from the function that drawing should serve. The means to understand a shape, tracing its outlines, observing the play of light on it. It wasn’t until a lot of time and practice later that I managed to learn to do boring, investigative drawing with the purpose of getting a feel for the shape before starting on a painting. These are drawings that you can’t sell, they’re found in a sketchbook or on a sheet of paper that you cut templates from.

I often say I’ve had to learn everything by myself, I tell people I’m a self-taught painter, forgetting the semiweekly model drawing classes, the practical training in the graphics room, with a teacher and unsupervised on Fridays (hurray!), typography, typeface drawing and calligraphy, graphic design and working in the in-house printshop serving the applied departments, photography, analogue, both black-and-white and colour. And all this for three years.

My understanding of art history was limited at the time, I thought I was a real hot shot doing my graduation thesis on “abstract book illustration”. Limitations notwithstanding, it introduced me to notions like visual poetry, Paul van Ostaijen and Guillaume Apollinaire, illustrations by Jean Arp, poetry by Francis Ponge (“listen carefully and you’ll find almost everything can’t talk”) and the concept of an artist’s book.

That may sound pretty clever, but in my studio in a squatted building, above a Turkish club, I was mostly studying Matisse, Dufy, while also doing material etchings I printed on a wooden mangle. My paintings generally featured my new girlfriend and me, naked on a bed (Luxe, Calme et Volupté). This new girlfriend and I have stayed together ever since, and she was the one who pushed me to apply at Jan van Eyck Academy in Maastricht.

My advice to you, young artist, whether you’re a lad or a girl, is that it’s best to enter a relationship while the both of you are still developing. That way, you can grow together, both in your own way, since you do have to give the other person space. And if you’re lucky, you’ll grow older together, and as long as you keep living your own life and have friends of your own, you’ll still be exciting to one another. It’s always handy to be with someone who needs as much freedom as you, as it’s nothing but trouble when people demand your attention when you’ve just sat down to read something beautiful, or when you’re delving deeper into your visual research. Taking on too many responsibilities is also something to be wary of, especially in the early days of a relationship; decorating your rented flat with trinkets from a thrift shop is a lot wiser for an artist than settling down. You may also want to avoid having children at an early age: spending a lot of time together, travelling, looking around, exhibiting, creating, and then, if the relationship lasts, having kids is great too.

Like so many things in (an artist’s) life, it takes luck. There are limits to the amount of control you have. When it comes to having kids, being with another artist is ideal. You can set your own times, allowing you to take studio and parenting days at will, plus time for yourself (even if that just involves sleeping or dreaming in your studio) and the intimacy of your newborn love.

Try to stay close to yourself in your studio and make sure you can empty yourself. That’s not always an easy task, especially after an exhibition where you didn’t get any sales, after unkind remarks by gallery people and family members, not having a gallery at all is no walk in the park either. Broken promises, radio silence when you’d expected contact, after a rejected grant request or exhibition proposal. Feeling jealous is counterproductive – it’s just the reality of working in a field where many (good) colleagues are active, and limited budgets mean choices have to be made between the good ones. Life is most pleasant for those who show good sportsmanship, exchange advice and offer help.

At the risk of sounding too soft, jealousy is best replaced by competition. I have interpreted artistic letdowns as a call to action to improve my work even further, phrase my thoughts even more clearly, communicate even more carefully and astound my audience with undeniably great work. “Something ‘they’ can’t ignore.”

It’s also wise to avoid sticking around in bad collaborative situations for too long; if there are any business partners you’re constantly having angry internal dialogues with, you should at least tell them what’s on your mind. And if you can’t have a proper conversation, there’s no saving that working relationship. Ending it is preferable to staying in a bad one. Sure, you need to be pragmatic, but your inner stability is what counts. Aside from the lovely people working in galleries, there are also some who don’t have those people skills. And your identity and productivity as an artist is of daily essence to you, you have your own best interests at heart, while a gallery can only divide its attention among the artists it represents. It’s not an equal relationship, that’s just the way it is.

It’s important to keep an eye out for small successes, things in your direct surroundings. Being an artist means you’re in it for the long haul, and you can expect to discover new aspects of yourself throughout your whole life. You find yourself making things you could only have dreamt of years before. What has aided me the most is studying; improving and broadening my technical and artisanal skills. Being eager to learn about new materials, their properties and the way they can be used. Taking the time for this allows your brain to breathe, your thoughts about, say, a new motif can enter a more relaxed train of thought, and hey presto!, the thing you were trying to force through just happens of its own accord. For me, this also happens when I copy “the masters”. Spending more time looking at your predecessors’ works transports you into their thoughts and the decisions they took as creators, which is very educational.

Another recommendation: try to view as much contemporary art as you can. Schedule a day a month to visit all the galleries you can find in a city, write down your observations, the things you’ve read, and what stood out. This is the world you belong to. Don’t stick to the comfort zone of art you like the feel or medium of, but try to understand the concept behind work that’s less approachable to you. Choose a different city every once in a while, but be sure to make the rounds regularly, so you get to know the exhibition policy and artists at various galleries and other art spaces. When a gallery owner sees you drop by more often, he or she will understand that you’re interested in what they do. This can lead to them asking you what you think of a given exhibition. That’s the beginning of a conversation right there – networking in practice. Even if you’ll never show any work there yourself, it’s a joy to walk around a major art fair where you have plenty of contacts; a chat here, a compliment there, maybe even a retrospective on the days of yore and the exhibiting artist’s new work, and you’ll have carved out your own place in the art world.

Do not under any circumstances blithely walk into places showing off your portfolio, nobody’s got time for that sort of thing. The only outcome will be an awkward situation and hurt feelings.

Be sure to contribute to (group) exhibitions whenever you can, you’ll also meet artists on your monthly gallery tour, discuss each other’s work and arrange plans for new possibilities. If you have it in you, you can write a blog, analyse or observe the work of your colleagues that stands out to you, and publishing magazines or pamphlets can help foster recognition. My magazine Ezel, which is currently Dutch-only, will soon be offered at art fairs in Shanghai and New York with an English translation, and my expectations are high. After all, despite the fact that I’m past 60 and have seen plenty of successes, I’m still incredibly eager to find out what I can achieve in my work.

There’s much more I want to say, but I think you’ve probably heard enough out of me at this point, we can always carry on our conversation when we run into each other in this beautiful field of ours. We’ll travel together for a while, and then continue on our separate, great adventures.

(this letter was written for Witte rook, Breda and published on their website)

https://witterook.nu/artikelen/advies-aan-de-jonge-kunstenaar-15/



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a bull in the studio

The studio...Posted by Stijn Peeters Thu, November 01, 2018 21:54:19

A Bull in the Studio

In 2011 I was invited by Kunstpodium T to develop an exhibition together with four graduation students from Dutch art academies. The exhibition was part of the ‘Master-Apprentice project’. Already at the start I had problems with the term ‘master’ so I made a suggestion to the students that we would use ‘Apprentice-Apprentice’ as the title for our show. It took some effort to convince them, mostly because I didn’t want to tell them why I specifically wanted this title. The reason why became evident to them and the visitors at the opening of the exhibition. In my room I had installed works from my 1982 graduation show from the Illustration department of the Royal Academy of Arts and Design . In this way I created equality by comparing their actual situation to mine at the time and also a nice historical perspective on the time that vocational training made up a major part of the curriculum of art academies.

Reading Courbets’ ‘letter to the young artists of Paris’ reminded me of this episode. In the first blogpost you can read about Jules Castagnary being the actual writer of this letter. Castagnary, professionally active as a lawyer, journalist, artcritic and politician, (think about that today!), had become strongly engaged with the Realist movement by which he saw possibilities of societal change.

On September, 28, 1861 he organized a meeting for students who had left the École des Beaux-Arts because of the teaching methods. The location for the meeting was brasserie Andler. Courbet himself, living only 4 doors further down ,was a regular guest there. The brasserie, where good beer was served, was frequented by Germans and former inhabitants of the north-eastern regions of France. It had a special attraction as a meeting place for artists and writers.


Image source; ‘Histoire anecdotique des Cafés & Cabarets de Paris’ by Alfred Delvau, 1862.

As a result of the meeting it was decided to request Courbet to open a teaching studio. In which the students could develop their skills and get acquainted with the modern painting methods under his guidance.

In his response Courbet explains why he doesn’t believe in schools; ‘There cannot be schools, there are only painters (...) Therefore I cannot claim to be opening a school to be training pupils, to be teaching this, that, or the other partial tradition of art. I can only explain to artists, who will be my collaborators and not my pupils, the method by which, in my opinion, one becomes a painter, by which I have myself tried to become one since I started, leaving to each one the entire direction of his individuality, the full liberty of his own expression in the application of this method. To this end the formation of a common studio, recalling the fruitful collaborations of the studios of the Renaissance, may certainly be useful and help towards inaugurating the era of modern painting’ (Georges Boudaille ‘Courbet Painter in Protest’, page 85)

Boudaille writes with a touch of cynicism; ‘Forty-two students, some of them dissidents from the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, agreed to pay 20 francs to hear Courbet expound his theory of Realism’.

After Courbet has thus shown his willingness to accompany this band of colleague-painters Castagnary sets to work: ‘On December 6, 1861, Jules Castagnary had signed a lease ( to become effective on December 9) for an atelier at 83 rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs ( street level), where Courbet was to teach painting. Student applications began on December 9, and that same day thirty-one students registered.( Petra ten-Doeschate Chu)

Castagnary manipulates the students with his own convictions; ‘You are tired of the precepts and methods of your teachers. You vaguely realize that they are running counter to the social current; that by following them to the limit you would end by speaking a language that society would no longer understand…’’

Also; ‘In the time of the Renaissance the studio was a collaboration. The pupil served his apprenticeship as a painter by painting with and for the master...( take note of his use of the term ‘master’ !)

Even in 1864, two years after the end of the experiment, Castagnary writes in ‘Les Libres Propos’ how he had intended the studio to function; ‘for models we shall have all the visible representations that make up Creation: bulls, horses, stags, roebuck, birds and so on; all the examples that make up society, from the bourgeois to the worker, from the soldier to the peasant, from the ploughman to the sailor. In this way the whole of nature and society will pass before your eyes in their infinite variety.

So the studio starts. Teacher/colleague Courbet gave only one piece of advice; “Don’t follow advice!” He pasted up these four commandments in the studio: 1. Do not do what I do. 2.Do not do what the others do. 3. If you did what Raphael used to do, you would have no existence of your own. Suicide. 4. Do what you see and what you feel, do what you want.

After his enthusiastic start and his willingness to ‘give all’ he slowly grinds to a halt. In a letter to his father he writes; ‘Dear Father , I apologize for not answering you sooner but you must take into account that in Paris I am not really my own man. I have important things that I must do here, that I cannot manage to do. I have too much of a following, especially recently, with all of modern painting converging around me. At last I have triumphed across the board’.

In March, 1862 the experiment, the studio of equals ceased to exist.


There are a lot of stories, in connection with Courbets’ learning studio, about a white spotted red bull as a model for the students , In this illustration you see the bull with his handler, the students painting and Courbet on the right holding his palet ( and paintingknife) ready for immediate corrections in the works of his younger colleagues.

Striking in this illustration is the fact that you see only males, (including the bull). Male art students had the opportunity to study the nude, female and male. In her famous essay ‘Why have there been no great woman artists?’ from 1971 Linda Nochlin proves convincingly that the answer to that question had nothing to do with women being less talented, gifted or able to achieve that status, By using the methods of academic research she showed that it was simply impossible for women to perform in the highest regions of art. The knowledge of male and female anatomy was a condition for making high art. And this, drawing and painting from live models was forbidden for women.

This photograph dates from 1855, (six years before Courbets’ bull). It shows the modelling class for women at Pennsylvania Academy working under direction of Thomas Eakins. Their model, a cow.


A grand 19th century lady , Rosa Bonheur, turned this disadvantage around and reached world fame with her paintings of animals The majestic setup of her studio puts the solitary bull , roebuck and male deer in an altogether different perspective.



Source material; Petra ten -Doeschate Chu, ‘Letters of Courbet’, University of Chicago Press, 1992 , Georges Boudaille ‘Courbet Painter in Protest’, New York Graphic Society Ltd, 1969. Linda Nochlin, ‘Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?’ uit ‘Art and Sexual Politics’, Macmillan, 1971)







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The truth...

The truth....Posted by Stijn Peeters Sat, October 06, 2018 15:04:33

History is never direct or clear, it is a construction, a process of argumentation and in depth study of sources. It is based on dialogue and it is generally accepted that new developments in society, new visions can lead to a re-evaluation, a shift of accents and a new definition of certain issues.

What I am seriously worried about is the shameless presence of the lie in the public sphere, the political use of un-truth, the machinations of undemocratic power, the spin and the role of media-corporations. And the huge effect all this has on the lives of people on factual information and on science.

And right at the start of my blog I experience the complexity of what I accepted as being ‘the truth’.

The title of my blog ‘L’art historique est par essence contemporain’ quotes Gustave Courbet, anyway I assumed it did. The line is from a letter Courbet wrote as a reaction to a request of a group of young artists who asked him to start a painting studio under his direction. The letter is titled ‘Lettre aux jeunes artistes de Paris’. But I was proven wrong.

In ‘Letters of Courbet’ ( University of Chicago Press, 1992) Petra ten- Doeschate Chu writes: ‘This letter, one of the most complete statements of Courbet’s ideas about art and art education, was published in the Courrier du dimanche of December 29, 1861. It is generally believed that the letter was composed by Jules Castagnary rather than by Courbet himself. Indeed the only manuscript version of the letter that is known is in Castagnary’s handwriting, with nothing but a signature by Courbet’.

The manuscript is being kept in the Musée départemental de la maison natale de Gustave Courbet, Ornans. I decide to look up the original.

https://www.institut-courbet.com/le-manuscrit-de-la-lettre-de-courbet-aux-jeunes-artistes-de-paris-presente-pour-la-premiere-fois/

On this site you can read the French text of the letter, but the exact quote is nowhere to be found; C’est en ce sens que je nie l’art historique appliqué au passé. ( …) What do these three dots stand for?

And where does the sentence l’art historique est par essence contemporain come from?

I find C’est en ce sens que je nie l’art historique appliqué au passé in several texts , followed by L’art historique est, par essence , contemporain. ( www.deslettres.fr, Michele Haddad, ‘Courbet’, editions Jean Paul Gisserrot, 2002, in Georges Lanoë,’ L´histoire de L´ecole Francaise de Paysage’ and others)

The two connected sentences appear also in three English translations of the letter I read ( ten-Doeschate Chu, Joshua Taylor and a digital version on Indiana.edu)

What is striking though are the different interpretations of the same text source.

Let’s read Joshua Taylor’s translation in ‘Nineteenth Century Theories Of Art’, (University of California Press, 1987).

‘Especially, the art of painting must consist only in the representation of objects that are visible and tangible to the artist. No period can be reproduced except by its own artists, by the artists who have lived in it. I maintain that an artist of one century is entirely incapable of reproducing things of a previous or future century, that is, of painting the past or the future. It is in this sense that I repudiate historical art directed to the past. Historical art is essentially contemporary.... ‘ ( Taylor)

Then Petra ten-Doeschate Chu, ‘Letters of Gustave Courbet’, (University of Chicago Press, 1992)

‘Every age should be represented only by its own artists, that is to say, by the artists who have lived in it. I hold that the artists of one century are totally incapable of representing the things of a preceding or subsequent century, in other words of painting the past or the future. It is in this sense that I deny the possibility of historical art applied to the past. Historical art is by nature contemporary. Every age must have its artists, who give expression to it and reproduce it for the future. An age that has not managed to find expression in the work of its own artists has no right to be expressed by later artists. That would be falsifying history’ ( Petra ten-Doeschate Chu)

And a third version found on the site of Indiana University, Bloomington, USA

‘It is in this sense that I deny the possibility of historical art applied to the past. Historical art is by nature contemporary. Each epoch must have its artists who express it and reproduce it for the future. An age which has not been capable of expressing itself through its own artists has no right to be represented by subsequent artists. This would be a falsification of history’. (Indiana Edu)

All three interpretations of the original are done with the best intentions.

Things change when pseudo science comes into play, when assertions and claims are presented as scientifically sound material. Very problematic is fake science, fact free counter-research financed by partisan interest groups. The most extreme is of course trolling, creating smokescreens and diversion to give evil free reign.

The big question is where do the three dots in the original manuscript stand for? Why is the quote (and title of my blog) missing? At what time did it emerge? Could it be that there is a difference between manuscript and newspaper item?







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