The Execution

The Execution, 1871

Drawing - H.16 X W.26cm
Notebook of Sainte Pélagie
Musée Du Louvre, Paris

Gustave Courbet (1819-1877), France

As Realist painter of portraits and landscape, Courbet’s political works are sporadic and less known. Despite this, he began to focus on political affairs in 1848, after witnessing the massacre of Parisian radicals by government forces.

He was a declared socialist, republican and democrat and was an elected member of the government body of the Paris Commune from March to May 1871. The period of the Commune is marked by violence and an estimated 20,000 to 50,000 people died. Courbet was arrested for his role in the Commune and some of his most political works date from the period of his incarceration; the sketches of his “Notebook of Sainte Pélagie” illustrate the events of the Commune and the subsequent imprisonment and execution by Versailles troops of many of the Communards, which included children. The sketches were never transposed to canvas, perhaps because of his flight to Switzerland and death in 1877.


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