Deer Haven on the Stream of Plaisir-Fontaine
The Realist Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) painted "Deer Haven on the Stream of Plaisir-Fontaine, Doubs" La remise de chevreuils au ruisseau de Plaisir-Fontaine (1866) on a previously used canvas: the ground is no longer visible, however. X-rays indicate that Courbet applied a thick new ground which obliterated the earlier composition: this second ground probably contained lead white as it is impervious to the X-rays. The present paint layer of Deer Haven is covering and, in general opaque. Courbet's surfaces are in fact deceptive. At a distance they give an appearance of rugged material as a result of the broken overworking of colours.
The landscape is a familiar scene near to Ornans, in the Franche-Comté region of France, and was mainly painted outdoors, although the deer were added in Courbet's studio in Paris in the winter of 1855-1856, a factor which contributed to the separate handling of landscape and deer. Courbet's knife handling of colour gives a broken irregular quality to the paint layer. Close inspection shows the delicacy of the artist's handling, where thin layers of brushed or knife-applied colour give an effect of textural solidity. His technical use of a palette knife for the background to his paintings is described in the novel L'Oeuvre by Emile Zola (1840-1902), and Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) in paintings such as La Maison du Pendu imitated Courbet's use of a palette knife to apply colour. He used deft touches with the knife to give substance to rocks, tree trunks and some river side foliage, and the brushwork used on the fur of the deer contrasts with the more vigorous rendering elsewhere. The treatment of the deer is very delicate, and raised brushmarks left by the hog's hair brush literally recreate the texture of fur.
Courbet painted repeated versions of this theme, which won him great acclaim at the Salon of 1866. Despite Courbet's importance as an example to other artists, his traditional style used for "Deer Haven on the Stream of Plaisir-Fontaine, Doubs" created a reaction to his handling of light and shade.
Courbet's palette for this work probably comprised:
- lead white,
- burnt umber,
- bituminous earth,
- burnt sienna,
- yellow ochre,
- red earth,
- Prussian blue,
- and chrome green.