(b. 1819, Ornans, d. 1877, La Tour-de-Peilz)
After Dinner at Ornans1849
Oil on canvas, 195 x 257 cm
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lille
Thanks to his friends, Courbet was finally able to realize his dream of painting a large-scale composition that would cement his reputation. Exhibited at the 1849 Salon, After Dinner at Ornans is set around a table in Caravaggesque fashion. It shows Courbet's father, Régis, to the left, along with three regular visitors to the household: Urbain Cuenot in the background, propped on his elbow, Adolphe Marlet with his back turned and lighting a pipe, and Alphonse Promayet playing his instrument. The painting is life size and combines a strongly rural atmosphere with a touch of willful sentimentality. Widely praised, it was purchased by the French State in the person of Charles Blanc, the Director of the Beaux-Arts.
This genre scene of imposing dimensions testifies to the debt Courbet owed to an entire tradition of realistic French painting, from the Le Nain brothers to Chardin. Presenting an image of country life at once serene, reassuring and musical, it gave him his first success at the Salon. It earned Courbet a gold medal, which meant that he no longer needed to submit his paintings to the Salon jury.