The 19th century was a time of significant artistic change in Europe, particularly in France. While the era began with an emphasis on Romanticism, another movement arose in the 1840s that drastically altered the course of art history. Based in France, Realism emphasized the lives of ordinary, working-class people in contemporary settings. Gustave Courbet was at the heart of this movement, creating large-scale depictions of peasants that shocked the country.
While artists like Delacroix previously created idealized scenes with an emphasis on drama and emotion, Courbet pursued art that conveyed the truth of how average laborers were living in 1850s France. “It is society at its best, its worst, its average,” he said of his practice. “In short, it’s my way of seeing society with all its interests and passions. It’s the whole world coming to me to be painted.”