Baltimore—With a dozen paintings and prints borrowed from regional institutions and private collections, the Walters Art Museum presents Courbet/Not Courbet, a show investigating the authenticity of some of Courbet’s late landscapes. On view Sept. 16, 2006–March 11, 2007 in the museum’s fourth floor drawing gallery, Courbet/Not Courbet complements the special traveling exhibition, Courbet and the Modern Landscape in the Walters’ special exhibition galleries Oct. 15, 2006–Jan. 7, 2007.
Courbet spent the last years of his life during the mid-1870s in exile in Switzerland because of his role as a leader in the dismantling of the Vendôme Column, an imperial symbol, during the civil war known as the Paris Commune.
“Cut off from his family and friends and deeply in debt, Courbet churned out endless variations on some of his most popular landscape subjects, often employing assistants to hasten production and sale,” said Eik Kahng, Walters curator of 18th- and 19th-century art. “In an effort to distinguish between the master’s touch and that of his followers and forgers, we will attempt to describe Courbet’s complex technique, which involved the use of the palette knife, sponges and even his fingers.”
Comparisons will be drawn between Courbet’s late works and the widely accepted paintings in the special exhibition on the Walters’ first floor. Some of the paintings in Courbet/Not Courbet are firmly rejected as being by Courbet specialists, while others are questioned but still attributed to the artist in scholarly literature. During the late 19th- and early 20th-centuries, many American collectors purchased paintings that have since been rejected by specialists. Demoted “Courbets” can be found in nearly every major American museum. The Walters, The Baltimore Museum of Art and the Philadelphia Museum of Art are no exception, and wrongly attributed paintings from these collections are featured in this show. There will be one painting at the end of the show for visitors to “guess” if the Courbet is authentic or not. The show will also include two fine paintings by Courbet’s closest imitator and most talented student, Cherubino Pata (1827–1889).