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Courbet's Realism Paperback – November 15, 1992

ISBN-13: 978-0226262154 ISBN-10: 0226262154

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Courbet's Realism + Manet's Modernism: or, The Face of Painting in the 1860s + Absorption and Theatricality: Painting and Beholder in the Age of Diderot
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 396 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (November 15, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226262154
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226262154
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 0.9 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,696,077 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Craig on January 21, 2012
Format: Paperback
I went out of my way to read and understood everything in this book. I wanted to see a good example of current art history and what warrants the glowing reviews on the back cover. It was an admittedly self-inflicted torture.

This book does not help us understand Courbet. The author, Fried, makes a vaguely interesting distinction between theatrical staging of a painting and an "absorptive" one in which the figures are unaware of being observed. He claims that Courbet's career can be defined by its powerful avoidance of the theatrical in favor of the "absorptive." However, he tells us that Courbet was probably unaware of this metaphorical pursuit. So Fried embarks on a very elaborate tracing of Courbet's unconscious efforts to avoid theatricality. He makes tortured efforts at explaining away contradictions to his theory - efforts almost as tortured as mine at reading his book. He makes preposterous claims. For instance, Courbet is seen as a "painter-beholder" subsumed into his own painting with the shovel of one of his "Stonebreakers" representing his paintbrush and the basket of rocks of the other representing his pallet. These two actors in the painting are on the wrong sides for Courbet's left and right hands, so Fried wastes our time making explanations. Then, Fried tells us that the postures of the two figures constitute the two initials of Courbet's name. There are very many things that can be said about the contents and effects of a painting. In my opinion, there are none more unworthy than these remarks.

It would be easier for me to claim that Fried only deals with symbols and illustrated ideas, but discussions of style do creep into his analysis, grudgingly. Sometimes he is quite perceptive about Courbet's use of paint, but Fried shows no delight in Courbet's work.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By bb on September 6, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Michael Fried is always a polemist, but he is also a great critic and an incredible sensitive thinker. Although you cannot agree with all his assumptions on Courbet, is always a great learning reading him and discussing his arguments. If you want to get good scholarship on Courbet, you must read it.
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