The Woman in the Waves

Artist: Gustave Courbet (French, Ornans 1819–1877 La Tour-de-Peilz)

Date: 1868

Medium: Oil on canvas

Dimensions: 25 3/4 x 21 1/4 in. (65.4 x 54 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929

Accession Number: 29.100.62

Description

Between 1864 and 1868 Courbet undertook a series of paintings of the female nude. He could not have failed to witness the triumph of Alexandre Cabanel's Birth of Venus (Musée d'Orsay, Paris) at the Salon of 1863, along with the popularity of similar representations by Cabanel's fellow academicians. Here, Courbet evokes the myth of Venus, the goddess born of the sea, but slyly subverts convention by depicting the model’s underarm hair—an element of realism amplified by the almost palpable quality of her flesh.

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