(b. 1819, Ornans, d. 1877, La Tour-de-Peilz)
The Meeting or Bonjour Monsieur Courbet1854
Oil on canvas, 129 x 149 cm
Musée Fabre, Montpellier
The Meeting (instantly dubbed Bonjour Monsieur Courbet) was commissioned by Alfred Bruyas, a wealthy Monpellier collector who had begun purchasing Courbet's works in 1853, and it was exhibited at the 1855 Exposition Universelle. The painting is associated with Courbet's stay at Monpellier during the summer of 1854. The composition is simultaneously narrative and symbolic. It echoes the popular image (well known to Courbet) showing "the burghers of the town speaking to the wandering Jew," and it is capable of a reading as the meeting of money and genius. The location is precisely identified as being near a friend's house on the outskirts of Montpellier, and we see Courbet arriving on foot (leaving for others the coach visible in the background), a free artist returning from the sea, his painting gear on his back.