Gustave Courbet (French, 1819–1877)
Oil on canvas
51 x 77 in. (129.5 x 195.6 cm)
Signed and dated (lower left): .66 / Gustave.Courbet.
H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929 (29.100.57)
Galvanized by the success of Cabanel's Birth of Venus (Musée d'Orsay, Paris) at the Salon of 1863, Courbet sought to challenge the French Academy on its own terms with a painting of a nude that would be accepted by the increasingly rigid—and arbitrary—Salon jury. His first attempt, in 1864, was rejected on the grounds of indecency; however, two years later, his Woman with a Parrot was accepted for the Salon of 1866.
While aspects of Woman with a Parrot—notably, the figure's pose and subtly modeled flesh tones—aligned it with academic art, viewers were shocked by the presence of the model's discarded clothing and disheveled hair. Jules-Antoine Castagnary, Courbet's great defender, however, praised the artist for representing a "woman of our time."