Gustave Courbet (1819 - 1877), c. 1849-1863
oil on canvas,
54.6 cm x 45.4 cm
The Mesdag Collection, The Hague
Is this a portrait or a self-portrait? Opinions differ. Written in red letters in French at the right above the sitter’s shoulder is: ‘To my friend Hippolyte / A reminder of our friendship.’ It is not known who Hippolyte was.
Mesdag greatly admired Courbet. This unconventional, nonchalant portrait is typical of the kind of paintings Mesdag bought. Its facture is spontaneous; the open shirt is suggested with long brushstrokes, and the face is energetically rendered with many short dabs in various colours.