An Analysis Of Representing Representation

1838 words - 7 pages

The Studio of the Painter portrays the social and cultural position of the artist. The center group consists of a nude female model, a young peasant boy, and Courbet himself working on a landscape. To the left is a group of people who represent a cross spectrum of society and the various social classes; while to the right are some of the artist’s friends—including the well-known essayist Baudelaire. This painting, along with several others, was hung in Courbet’s Pavilion of Realism; the exhibit was created after Courbet refused to paint to the rules of the French Academy in order to be shown at the Exposition Universelles des Beaux-Arts. Rather than portraying a woman as the traditional allegory, Courbet uses her as the inspiration behind the landscape painting thus creating a connection between the standard female nude and nature. The painting has connections to the theory of absorption by Courbet portraying all of the figures being absorbed in their own thoughts so that the viewer is being ignored and is rendered unnecessary. Like a play at a theatre, the scene portrayed can be seen as a theatre production being performed for the viewer and essentially makes the viewer believe that they are uninvolved. Overall, the painting is a statement of Courbet’s desire to go beyond traditional painting and viewer roles and create a new way of separating art from the collective eye.
Michael Fried’s article Representing Representation focuses on the central group of Courbet’s Studio of the Painter as a “desire to reduce to an absolute minimum all sense of distance between [the] painting and beholder.” As his introduction, he states that he will compare the painter in the Studio to one of Courbet’s well-known self portraits—The Man with the Leather Belt—by explaining the comparable features of the two men. He then states that he will provide the reader with the historical context of the evolution of “French painting from the middle of the 18th century to the advent of Courbet.” He also says that he will look at two of Courbet’s major works and compare them to the central group of the Studio. After all of the evidence he brings to the table, Fried states that he will focus on the main group itself especially on the relationships between the things in that main group. Fried bases his whole discussion on the idea that by looking at the main group in context to all of the information he provides, viewers are able to better understand the significance of realism in Courbet’s works. While he covers a lot of information, the connections he provides are well-supported and connect to Fried’s overall thesis.
Fried gathers many different sources as a means to support his main focus of the central group of Courbet’s Studio. By choosing the central group, the author creates a focal point by which the audience can easily study and compare to his writing. However, Fried’s essay could have been much stronger had he focused on one of the points he covered rather than...

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