Somewhat later, Impressionism introduced another equally valid means of seeing reality. As the concept of an emotional reality took central importance, Post-Impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) began capturing emotion in the very act of painting. In attempting to ‘accurately’ reflect life in all of its objective detail, French artists realized a number of ways of seeing the ‘real.’ The major ideas that fueled French art are expressed in the works of Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) and Claude Monet (1840-1926), both of whom have works housed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
In his art and in his philosophy, Courbet’s chief technical concern seems to be an abandonment of the ‘rules’ of art, at least to some degree, in favor of a more natural flow in both line and form. He said, “painting is an essentially concrete art and can only consist in the representation of real and existing things” (cited in Finocchio, 2004). In his painting “Young Women from the Village” (1852), Courbet presents a lovely pastoral image in which three young ladies from the village offer a poor farm girl something from a basket. This graceful act of charity on the part of the town girls is nearly lost in the overwhelming spaciousness of the surrounding landscape. This vast landscape is predominantly green broken only by the presence of a few cattle and a small dog all clustered relatively near the girls. There is nothing to break up the sense of isolation and mutual need these girls have for one another. In this presentation, Courbet broke all traditional approaches to ‘pastoral’ art as well as the respected position of artists of the period. “His Young Women from the Village … violates conventional rules of scale and perspective and challenges traditional class distinctions” (Finnochio, 2004). Although Courbet is presenting young ladies, he makes no attempt to beautify their images. He paints them in the traditional clothing of