The Easel

The Social Sublime: Decoding Courbet’s Burial at Ornans

Courbet was uncompromising. He determined to paint the things that really exist, excluding the Romantics painterly allusions. Burial at Ornans, one of his greatest paintings, does exactly this. Criticized at the time for being “ugly and crude”, it portrays a real funeral and the ordinary people who likely attended it. This is Courbet the Realist, the “proto shock-jock”, telling it the way it is.