Last Updated 16 May 2021

Courbet Stonebreakers

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Courbet’s stonebreakers is a painting drawn by Gustave Courbet and have been seen by two different art historians who write about their opinions about Courbet’s meaning behind his painting. Courbet’s painting can either be interpreted as a painting that shows in detail hardship and emotion of manual labor, or a painting that just a “metaphor as an act of painting”, but the understanding of it as hardship and emotion of manual labor is more sufficient because by the looks of the two men it reminds me of times where back in the day everything was done manually.

Linda Nochlin is one of the art historians who argues about how some people don’t really understand the meaning of Courbet’s painting. She tries to explain how in his painting he shows us how manual labor really is. He expressed how real it use to be and how difficult it was for those at the time of 1849. She believes that many people just see his painting as two workers just breaking stones with lack of aerial perspective. Michael Fried another art historian argues that no one will ever know what Courbet was really trying to say.

Fried believes that it “remains an open question”, that the poses, their clothes, how far they stand from each other can mean different things. He chooses to believe that Courbet just painted that because he like the scene of two men working in a environment with a lot of dirt. He thinks that Courbet’s painting can be interpreted as a an act of painting or an image of labor. Each author use the painting as evidence, but Fried seems to use some sort of story that was written about how Courbet was influenced to paint “The Stonebreakers”. Nochlin’s just gives us her opinion.

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Which even though their wasn’t a story she had a good point. Even though Fried had facts and showed us that the painting can be seen as in either way I still have to agree with Nochlin’s opinion. I’m sure there are many ways to see the painting but I believe the painting comes more to life when you think of it as Courbet showing us how low class society in the mid 1800’s manual labor use to be. It reminds me how difficult things use to be back then and how now we have it way easier. Nochlin’s just seemed to grab my attention and convinced me more than Frieds point of view.

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Courbet Stonebreakers. (2018, Feb 13). Retrieved from

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