Gustave Courbet, a French painter born in the Doubs region of France, was one of the pioneers of Realism in the mid-19th century. His minimalist views of the sea and sky were a result of his sojourns at Trouville, where he developed his pictorial vocabulary. During his visit to Trouville in fall 1865, Courbet painted twenty-five pictures that depicted the autumn sea and sky. Unlike Romantic painters who relied on imagination or memory to create their works, Courbet observed his subject directly and employed spontaneous brushstrokes and roughness of paint texture.
One of Courbet’s most notable paintings is The Waterspout at Trouville (1866), which depicts a waterspout that he witnessed during his stay in Trouville. The painting is part of a series that features turbulent seascapes from the coast. Courbet’s depictions are starkly different from traditional landscapes as they focus solely on capturing natural phenomena.
The Beach at Trouville (1870) by Claude Monet also captures the picturesque coast at Trouville but lacks some distinct features noticeable in Courbet’s paintings. Monet uses broken brushstrokes that blend seamlessly into one another to create an overall impressionistic style, while Courbet chooses to leave visible individual brushstrokes leading to incisively clear textures and lines.
Overall, Gustave Courbet played a crucial role in bringing realism into mainstream art throughout Europe within his time through painting seascapes with direct observation as opposed to using imagination or memory like Romantics painters before him and laid down guidelines for future artists’ innovations for many generations after him.