Museum Folkwang
La vague
  • Gustave Courbet
  • La vague, 1870

  • The Wave
  • Oil on canvas
  • 45 x 59 cm
  • Acquired in 1989 with the support of the Eugen-und-Agnes-von-Waldthausen-Platzhoff-Museums-Stiftung
  • Inv. G 497
  • CommentaryDuring a stay in Etretat on the French Normandy coast, Courbet painted the motif of a massive, mounting wave crowned by foaming spray in a number of variations. The viewer sees this eternally reoccurring event of crashing waves and stormy weather with rapidly approaching, towering clouds. In Etretat, Courbet lived in the house of the landscape painter Le Poittevon, a relative of the writer Guy de Maupassant, who in 1886 recalled his impressions of the making of the first version of this theme in the journal ›Gil Blas‹: »In a large, empty room, a huge, dirty and greasy man presses blobs of white paint with a kitchen knife on a large canvas. From time to time, he walked over to the window, pressing his face against the pane and looked out into the storm. The ocean came so close that it seemed to want to beat against the house, covered in spray and noise. Dirty water beat against the windowpane like hail and dripped downwards. On the mantelpiece there stood a bottle of cider and a half-empty glass. Now and again Courbet drank a little and then returned to his painting. The work became ›The Wave‹ and unsettled the world.« Contemporaries did not fail to notice the political significance which Courbet enigmatically related to the images of waves: He saw waves as a metaphor for democracy which washed away for ever the old and unjust. The wild aspect of Courbet's nature can be read directly in the ocean pictures: Dirty, rough paint was applied temperamentally with a kitchen knife. The threatening wave crowned with spray became a clear metaphor for Courbet's efforts to find a new, realistic depiction of nature distinct from Romanticism's richness of detail, one that, however, had not yet found the gaiety of Impressionism.
  • Provenance(1980), Slg. „M.D.“, Paris
    Slg. Durand Ruel, Paris
    Slg. Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, London
    Galerie Dr. Fritz und Dr. Peter Nathan, Zürich
    seit 1989, Museum Folkwang, Essen
  • Obj_Id: 3,046
  • Obj_Internet_S: Highlight
  • Obj_Ownership_S (Verantw):Painting, Sculpture, Media Art
  • Obj_SpareNField01_N (Verantw): 187
  • Obj_Creditline_S: Museum Folkwang, Essen, Gemäldesammlung
  • Obj_Title1_S: La vague
  • Obj_Title2_S: The Wave
  • Obj_PartDescription_S (Titelerg):
  • Obj_SpareMField01_M (Alle Titel): La vague The Wave La vague Die Woge
  • Obj_Dating_S: 1870
  • Jahr von: 1,870
  • Jahr bis: 1,870
  • Obj_IdentNr_S: G 497
  • Obj_IdentNrSort_S: G 0497
  • Obj_Classification_S (Objtyp): Painting
  • Obj_Crate_S: 45 x 59 cm
  • Obj_Material_S: Oil on canvas
  • Obj_Technique_S:
  • Obj_SpareSField01_S (Mat./Tech.): Oil on canvas
  • Obj_AccNote_S (Erwerb): Acquired in 1989 with the support of the Eugen-und-Agnes-von-Waldthausen-Platzhoff-Museums-Stiftung
  • Obj_PermanentLocation_S (Standort):
  • Obj_Condition1_S (Druckerei):
  • Obj_Condition2_S (Auflage):
  • Obj_Subtype_S (Genre):
  • Obj_Rights_S: © Museum Folkwang, Essen
    Photo: Museum Folkwang
Commentary
Artists
Provenance

During a stay in Etretat on the French Normandy coast, Courbet painted the motif of a massive, mounting wave crowned by foaming spray in a number of variations. The viewer sees this eternally reoccurring event of crashing waves and stormy weather with rapidly approaching, towering clouds. In Etretat, Courbet lived in the house of the landscape painter Le Poittevon, a relative of the writer Guy de Maupassant, who in 1886 recalled his impressions of the making of the first version of this theme in the journal ›Gil Blas‹: »In a large, empty room, a huge, dirty and greasy man presses blobs of white paint with a kitchen knife on a large canvas. From time to time, he walked over to the window, pressing his face against the pane and looked out into the storm. The ocean came so close that it seemed to want to beat against the house, covered in spray and noise. Dirty water beat against the windowpane like hail and dripped downwards. On the mantelpiece there stood a bottle of cider and a half-empty glass. Now and again Courbet drank a little and then returned to his painting. The work became ›The Wave‹ and unsettled the world.« Contemporaries did not fail to notice the political significance which Courbet enigmatically related to the images of waves: He saw waves as a metaphor for democracy which washed away for ever the old and unjust. The wild aspect of Courbet's nature can be read directly in the ocean pictures: Dirty, rough paint was applied temperamentally with a kitchen knife. The threatening wave crowned with spray became a clear metaphor for Courbet's efforts to find a new, realistic depiction of nature distinct from Romanticism's richness of detail, one that, however, had not yet found the gaiety of Impressionism.