Model Reading in the Studio

A work made of black crayon and charcoal, with stumping and scraping, on cream wove card.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of black crayon and charcoal, with stumping and scraping, on cream wove card.

Date:

c. 1849

Artist:

Gustave Courbet
French, 1819-1877

About this artwork

Life drawing from the nude was an integral part of the rigorous academic training an artist might traditionally receive in Paris and other major cities in the 19th century. Only after beginning with rote copying from prints and plaster casts after the antique would qualified, usually male, students progress to the nude model. The highly finished drawings that resulted from these sessions hearken back to Classical sculpture in their definition of relief and generally demonstrate more the respective technical aptitude of these young artists than their creative potential. Paul Cézanne and Gustav Klimt’s nudes are particularly difficult to recognize as autograph, although they underline the dramatic journey made by these artists to their mature styles. Luminous in surface handling and a tendency toward allegory, Edward Burne-Jones’ sketchbook nudes are less rigorous in their anatomical detail, while Auguste Rodin’s cropped female form floats across the page as an ode to the theme of eternal feminine. Conversely, the subject of Gustave Courbet’s Model Reading exhibits partial undress rather than complete nudity in a moment of quiet introspection between her modeling sessions.

The diminishing influence of the Academy, and its advocacy of realistic painting, infused a short-lived periodical, Le nu esthètique (The aesthetic nude). Produced shortly after the emergence of photography helped nudge painting toward greater abstraction, this publication offered decoratively laid-out photographs of female, male, and child nudes in varying poses and allegorical guises, purportedly for artists to study from life. No corresponding paintings are known, but the ultimate academician Jean-Léon Gerôme’s introduction suggests its audience was intended to be a new generation of academic painters.

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Prints and Drawings

Artist

Gustave Courbet

Title

Model Reading in the Studio

Origin

France

Date

1844–1854

Medium

Black crayon and charcoal, with stumping and scraping, on cream wove card

Dimensions

561 × 390 mm

Credit Line

Simeon B. Williams Fund

Reference Number

1968.163

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email .

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