National Gallery of Victoria
The National Gallery of Victoria, popularly known as the NGV, is an art museum in Melbourne, Australia. Founded in 1861, it is Australia's oldest and most visited art museum; the NGV houses an encyclopedic art collection across two sites: NGV International, located on St Kilda Road in the Melbourne Arts Precinct of Southbank, the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, located nearby at Federation Square. The NGV International building, designed by Sir Roy Grounds, opened in 1968, was redeveloped by Mario Bellini before reopening in 2003, it is on the Victorian Heritage Register. Designed by Lab Architecture Studio, the Ian Potter Centre opened in 2002 and houses the gallery's Australian art collection. Victoria was granted separation from New South Wales in 1850, becoming effective on 1 July 1851. In the wake of the Victorian gold rush that began in August 1851, the new colony became Australia's richest, Melbourne, its capital, the largest and wealthiest city in Australia. With Melbourne's rapid growth came calls for the establishment of a public art gallery, in 1859, the Government of Victoria pledged £2000 for the acquisition of plaster casts of sculpture.
These works were displayed in the Museum of Art, opened by Governor Sir Henry Barkly in May 1861 on the lower floor of the south wing of the Public Library on Swanston Street. Further money was set aside in the early 1860s for the purchase of original paintings by British and Victorian artists; these works were first displayed in December 1864 in the newly opened Picture Gallery, which remained under the curatorial administration of the Public Library until 1882. Grand designs for a building fronting Lonsdale and Swanston streets were drawn by Nicholas Chevalier in 1860 and Frederick Grosse in 1865, featuring an enormous and elaborate library and gallery, but the visions were never realised. On 24 May 1874, the first purpose built gallery, known as the McArthur Gallery, opened in the McArthur room of the State Library, the following year, the Museum of Art was renamed the National Gallery of Victoria; the McArthur Gallery was only intended as a temporary home until the much grander vision was to be realised.
However such an edifice did not eventuate and the complex was instead developed incrementally over several decades. The National Gallery of Victoria Art School, associated with the gallery, was founded in 1867 and remained the leading centre for academic art training in Australia until about 1910; the School's graduates went on to become some of Australia's most significant artists. In 1887, the Buvelot Gallery was opened, along with the Painting School studios. In 1892, two more galleries were added: Stawell and La Trobe; the gallery's collection was built from both gifts of works of art and monetary donations. The most significant, the Felton Bequest, was established by the will of Alfred Felton and from 1904, has been used to purchase over 15,000 works of art. Since the Felton Bequest, the gallery had long held plans to build a permanent facility, however it was not until 1943 that the State Government chose a site, Wirth's Park, just south of the Yarra River. £3 million was put forward in February 1960 and Roy Grounds was announced as the architect.
In 1959, the commission to design a new gallery was awarded to the architectural firm Grounds Romberg Boyd. In 1962, Roy Grounds split from his partners Frederick Romberg and Robin Boyd, retained the commission, designed the gallery at 180 St Kilda Road; the new bluestone clad building was completed in December 1967 and Victorian premier Henry Bolte opened it on 20 August 1968. One of the features of the building is the Leonard French stained glass ceiling, one of the world's largest pieces of suspended stained glass, which casts colourful light on the floor below; the water-wall entrance is another well-known feature of the building. In 1999, redevelopment of the building was proposed, with Mario Bellini chosen as architect and an estimated project cost of $161.9 million. The proposal was to leave the original architectural fabric intact including the exterior facade and Leonard French stained glass ceiling, but to modernise the interior. During the redevelopment, many works were moved to a temporary external annex known as NGV on Russell, at the State Library with its entrance on Russell Street.
A major fundraising drive was launched on 10 October 2000 to redevelop the ageing facility and although the state government committed the majority of the funds, private donations were sought in addition to federal funding. The drive achieved its aim and secured $15 million from the Ian Potter Foundation on 11 July 2000, $3 million from Lotti Smorgon, $2 million from the Clemenger Foundation, $1 million each from James Fairfax and the Pratt Foundation. NGV on Russell closed on 30 June 2002 to make way for the staged opening of the new St Kilda Road gallery, it was opened by premier Steve Bracks on 4 December 2003. The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia in Federation Square was designed by Lab Architecture Studio to house the NGV's Australian art collection, it opened in 2002. As such, the NGV's collection is now housed in two separate buildings, with Grounds' building renamed NGV International; the NGV's Asian art collection began in 1862, one year after the gallery's founding, when Frederick Dalgety donated two Chinese plates.
The Asian collection has since grown to include significant works from across the continent. The NGV's Australian art collection encompasses Indigenous art and artefacts, Australian colonial art, Australian Impressionist art, 20th century and contemporary art; the 1880s saw the birth and development of
Jean Désiré Gustave Courbet was a French painter who led the Realism movement in 19th-century French painting. Committed to painting only what he could see, he rejected academic convention and the Romanticism of the previous generation of visual artists, his independence set an example, important to artists, such as the Impressionists and the Cubists. Courbet occupies an important place in 19th-century French painting as an innovator and as an artist willing to make bold social statements through his work. Courbet's paintings of the late 1840s and early 1850s brought him his first recognition, they challenged convention by depicting unidealized peasants and workers on a grand scale traditionally reserved for paintings of religious or historical subjects. Courbet's subsequent paintings were of a less overtly political character: landscapes, hunting scenes and still lifes. An active socialist, Courbet was active in the political developments of France, he was imprisoned for six months in 1871 for his involvement with the Paris Commune, lived in exile in Switzerland from 1873 until his death.
I am fifty years old and I have always lived in freedom. Gustave Courbet was born in 1819 to Sylvie Oudot Courbet in Ornans. Being a prosperous farming family, anti-monarchical feelings prevailed in the household. Courbet's sisters, Zoé, Zélie and Juliette, were his first models for painting. After moving to Paris he returned home to Ornans to hunt and find inspiration. Courbet worked at the studio of Steuben and Hesse. An independent spirit, he soon left, preferring to develop his own style by studying the paintings of Spanish and French masters in the Louvre, painting copies of their work. Courbet's first works were an Odalisque inspired by the writing of Victor Hugo and a Lélia illustrating George Sand, but he soon abandoned literary influences, choosing instead to base his paintings on observed reality. Among his paintings of the early 1840s are several self-portraits, Romantic in conception, in which the artist portrayed himself in various roles; these include Self-Portrait with Black Dog, the theatrical Self-Portrait, known as Desperate Man, Lovers in the Countryside, The Sculptor, The Wounded Man, The Cellist, Self-Portrait, Man with a Pipe.
Trips to the Netherlands and Belgium in 1846–47 strengthened Courbet's belief that painters should portray the life around them, as Rembrandt and other Dutch masters had. By 1848, he had gained supporters among the younger critics, the Neo-romantics and Realists, notably Champfleury. Courbet achieved his first Salon success in 1849 with his painting After Dinner at Ornans; the work, reminiscent of Chardin and Le Nain, earned Courbet a gold medal and was purchased by the state. The gold medal meant that his works would no longer require jury approval for exhibition at the Salon—an exemption Courbet enjoyed until 1857. In 1849-50, Courbet painted Stone-Breakers; the painting was inspired by a scene Courbet witnessed on the roadside. He explained to Champfleury and the writer Francis Wey: "It is not that one encounters so complete an expression of poverty and so, right and there I got the idea for a painting. I told them to come to my studio the next morning." Courbet's work belonged neither to Neoclassical schools.
History painting, which the Paris Salon esteemed as a painter's highest calling, did not interest him, for he believed that "the artists of one century incapable of reproducing the aspect of a past or future century..." Instead, he maintained. He and Jean-Francois Millet would find inspiration painting the life of workers. Courbet painted figurative compositions, landscapes and still lifes, he courted controversy by addressing social issues in his work, by painting subjects that were considered vulgar, such as the rural bourgeoisie and working conditions of the poor. His work, along with that of Jean-François Millet, became known as Realism. For Courbet realism dealt not with the perfection of line and form, but entailed spontaneous and rough handling of paint, suggesting direct observation by the artist while portraying the irregularities in nature, he depicted the harshness in life, in so doing challenged contemporary academic ideas of art. The Salon of 1850–1851 found him triumphant with The Stone Breakers, the Peasants of Flagey and A Burial at Ornans.
The Burial, one of Courbet's most important works, records the funeral of his grand uncle which he attended in September 1848. People who attended the funeral were the models for the painting. Models had been used as actors in historical narratives, but in Burial Courbet said he "painted the people, present at the interment, all the townspeople"; the result is a realistic presentation of them, of life in Ornans. The vast painting—it measures 10 by 22 feet — dre
Jules Adolphe Aimé Louis Breton was a 19th-century French Naturalist painter. His paintings are influenced by the French countryside and his absorption of traditional methods of painting helped make Jules Breton one of the primary transmitters of the beauty and idyllic vision of rural existence. Breton was born on 1 May 1827 in a small Pas-de-Calais village, his father, Marie-Louis Breton, supervised land for a wealthy landowner. His mother died when Jules was 4 and he was brought up by his father. Other family members who lived in the same house were his maternal grandmother, his younger brother, Émile, his uncle Boniface Breton. A respect for tradition, a love of the land and for his native region remained central to his art throughout his life and provided the artist with many scenes for his Salon compositions, his first artistic training was not far from Courrières at the College St. Bertin near Saint-Omer, he met the painter Félix De Vigne in 1842 who, impressed by his youthful talent, persuaded his family to let him study art.
Breton left for Ghent in 1843 where he continued to study art at the Academy of Fine Arts with de Vigne and the painter Hendrik Van der Haert. In 1846, Breton moved to Antwerp where he took lessons with Egide Charles Gustave Wappers and spent some time copying the works of Flemish masters. In 1847, he left for Paris where he hoped to perfect his artistic training at the École des Beaux-Arts. In Paris he studied in the atelier of the Michel Martin Drolling, he met and became friends with several of the Realist painters, including François Bonvin and Gustave Brion and his early entries at the Paris Salon reflected their influence. His first efforts were in historical subjects: Saint Piat preaching in Gaul under the influence of the revolution of 1848, he represented Misery and Despair; the Salon displayed his painting Misery and Despair in 1849 and Hunger in 1850-51. Both paintings have since been destroyed. After Hunger was shown in Brussels and Ghent, Breton moved to Belgium where he met his future wife Elodie.
Elodie was the daughter of his early teacher Félix de Vigne. In 1852, Breton returned to France, but he had discovered that he was not born to be a historical painter, he returned to the memories of nature and of the country which were impressed on him in early youth. In 1853 he exhibited Return of the Reapers, the first of numerous rural peasant scenes influenced by the works of the Swiss painter Louis Léopold Robert. Breton's interest in peasant imagery was well established from on and what he is best known for today. In 1854, he returned to the village of Courrières, he began The Gleaners, a work inspired by seasonal field labor and the plight of the less fortunate who were left to gather what remained in the field after the harvest. The Gleaners received a third class medal, he received commissions from the State and many of his works were purchased by the French Art Administration and sent to provincial museums. His 1857 painting Blessing of the Wheat, Artois was exhibited at the Salon the same year and won a second class medal.
Breton married Elodie de Vigne in 1858. He continued to exhibit throughout the 1870s and into the 1880s and 1890s and his reputation grew, his poetic renderings of single peasant female figures in a landscape, posed against the setting sun, remained popular in the United States. Since his works were so popular, Breton produced copies of some of his images, he was popular in his own time, exhibiting numerous compositions at the Salons that were available as engravings. He was one of the best known painters of his period in his native France as well as England and the United States. In 1880 Vincent van Gogh walked 85 miles to Courrières to pay a visit to Breton, whom he admired, but turned back, put off by Breton's high wall. In 1886, Breton was elected a member of the Institut de France on the death of Baudry. In 1889 he was made commander of the Legion of Honor, in 1899 foreign member of the Royal Academy of London, his brother Emile, an architect by training, his daughter Virginie were painters.
He wrote several books, was a recognized writer who published a volume of poems and several editions of prose relating his life as an artist and the lives of other artists that he knew. Breton died in Paris on 5 July 1906. Breton was a painter of rustic life in the province of Artois, which he quit only three times for short excursions: in 1864 to Provence, in 1865 and 1873 to Brittany, whence he derived some of his happiest studies of religious scenes, his numerous subjects may be divided into four classes: labour, rural festivals and religious festivals. Among his more important works may be named Women Gleaning, The Day after St Sebastian's Day, which gained him a third-class medal. Willa Cather's n
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot was a French landscape and portrait painter as well as a printmaker in etching. He is a pivotal figure in landscape painting and his vast output references the Neo-Classical tradition and anticipates the plein-air innovations of Impressionism. Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot was born in Paris on July 16, 1796, in a house at 125 Rue du Bac, now demolished, his family were bourgeois people—his father was a wigmaker and his mother a milliner—and unlike the experience of some of his artistic colleagues, throughout his life he never felt the want of money, as his parents made good investments and ran their businesses well. After his parents married, they bought the millinery shop where his mother had worked and his father gave up his career as a wigmaker to run the business side of the shop; the store was a famous destination for fashionable Parisians and earned the family an excellent income. Corot was the second of three children born to the family, who lived above their shop during those years.
Corot received a scholarship to study at the Lycée Pierre-Corneille in Rouen, but left after having scholastic difficulties and entered a boarding school. He "was not a brilliant student, throughout his entire school career he did not get a single nomination for a prize, not for the drawing classes." Unlike many masters who demonstrated early talent and inclinations toward art, before 1815 Corot showed no such interest. During those years he lived with the Sennegon family, whose patriarch was a friend of Corot's father and who spent much time with young Corot on nature walks, it was in this region. At nineteen, Corot was a "big child and awkward, he blushed. Before the beautiful ladies who frequented his mother's salon, he was embarrassed and fled like a wild thing... He was an affectionate and well-behaved son, who adored his mother and trembled when his father spoke." When Corot's parents moved into a new residence in 1817, the 21-year-old Corot moved into the dormer-windowed room on the third floor, which became his first studio as well.
With his father's help Corot apprenticed to a draper, but he hated commercial life and despised what he called "business tricks", yet he faithfully remained in the trade until he was 26, when his father consented to his adopting the profession of art. Corot stated, "I told my father that business and I were incompatible, that I was getting a divorce." The business experience proved beneficial, however, by helping him develop an aesthetic sense through his exposure to the colors and textures of the fabrics. Out of boredom, he turned to oil painting around 1821 and began with landscapes. Starting in 1822 after the death of his sister, Corot began receiving a yearly allowance of 1500 francs which adequately financed his new career, studio and travel for the rest of his life, he rented a studio on quai Voltaire. During the period when Corot acquired the means to devote himself to art, landscape painting was on the upswing and divided into two camps: one―historical landscape by Neoclassicists in Southern Europe representing idealized views of real and fancied sites peopled with ancient and biblical figures.
In both approaches, landscape artists would begin with outdoor sketching and preliminary painting, with finishing work done indoors. Influential upon French landscape artists in the early 19th century was the work of Englishmen John Constable and J. M. W. Turner, who reinforced the trend in favor of Realism and away from Neoclassicism. For a short period between 1821 and 1822, Corot studied with Achille Etna Michallon, a landscape painter of Corot's age, a protégé of the painter Jacques-Louis David and, a well-respected teacher. Michallon had a great influence on Corot's career. Corot's drawing lessons included tracing lithographs, copying three-dimensional forms, making landscape sketches and paintings outdoors in the forests of Fontainebleau, the seaports along Normandy, the villages west of Paris such as Ville-d'Avray. Michallon exposed him to the principles of the French Neoclassic tradition, as espoused in the famous treatise of theorist Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes, exemplified in the works of French Neoclassicists Claude Lorrain and Nicolas Poussin, whose major aim was the representation of ideal Beauty in nature, linked with events in ancient times.
Though this school was on the decline, it still held sway in the Salon, the foremost art exhibition in France attended by thousands at each event. Corot stated, "I made my first landscape from nature...under the eye of this painter, whose only advice was to render with the greatest scrupulousness everything I saw before me. The lesson worked. After Michallon's early death in 1822, Corot studied with Michallon's teacher, Jean-Victor Bertin, among the best known Neoclassic landscape painters in France, who had Corot draw copies of lithographs of botanical subjects to learn precise organic forms. Though holding Neoclassicists in the highest regard, Corot did not limit his training to their tradition of allegory set in imagined nature, his notebooks reveal precise renderings of tree trunks and plants which show the influence of Northern realism. Throughout his career, Corot demonstrated an inclination to apply both traditions in his work, sometimes combining the
James Abbott McNeill Whistler
James Abbott McNeill Whistler was an American artist, active during the American Gilded Age and based in the United Kingdom. He was averse to sentimentality and moral allusion in painting, was a leading proponent of the credo "art for art's sake", his famous signature for his paintings was in the shape of a stylized butterfly possessing a long stinger for a tail. The symbol was apt, for it combined both aspects of his personality: his art is characterized by a subtle delicacy, while his public persona was combative, he found a parallel between painting and music and entitled many of his paintings "arrangements", "harmonies", "nocturnes", emphasizing the primacy of tonal harmony. His most famous painting is Arrangement in Black No. 1 known as Whistler's Mother, the revered and parodied portrait of motherhood. Whistler influenced the art world and the broader culture of his time with his artistic theories and his friendships with leading artists and writers. James Abbott Whistler was born in Lowell, Massachusetts on July 11, 1834, the first child of Anna McNeill Whistler and George Washington Whistler, the brother of Confederate surgeon Dr. William McNeill Whistler.
His father was a railroad engineer, Anna was his second wife. James lived the first three years of his life in a modest house at 243 Worthen Street in Lowell; the house is now the Whistler House Museum of a museum dedicated to him. He claimed St. Petersburg, Russia as his birthplace during the Ruskin trial: "I shall be born when and where I want, I do not choose to be born in Lowell."The family moved from Lowell to Stonington, Connecticut in 1837, where his father worked for the Stonington Railroad. Three of the couple's children died in infancy during this period, their fortunes improved in 1839 when his father became chief engineer for the Boston & Albany Railroad, the family built a mansion in Springfield, Massachusetts where the Wood Museum of History now stands.) They lived in Springfield until they left the United States in late 1842. Nicholas I of Russia learned of George Whistler's ingenuity in engineering the Boston & Albany Railroad, he offered him a position in 1842 engineering a railroad from St. Petersburg to Moscow, the family moved from to St. Petersburg in the winter of 1842/43.
Whistler was a moody child prone to fits of temper and insolence, he drifted into periods of laziness after bouts of illness. His parents discovered that drawing settled him down and helped focus his attention. In years, he played up his mother's connection to the American South and its roots, he presented himself as an impoverished Southern aristocrat, although it remains unclear to what extent he sympathized with the Southern cause during the American Civil War, he adopted his mother's maiden name. Beginning in 1842, his father was employed to work on a railroad in Russia. After moving to St. Petersburg to join his father a year the young Whistler took private art lessons enrolled in the Imperial Academy of Arts at age eleven; the young artist followed the traditional curriculum of drawing from plaster casts and occasional live models, reveled in the atmosphere of art talk with older peers, pleased his parents with a first-class mark in anatomy. In 1844, he met the noted artist Sir William Allan, who came to Russia with a commission to paint a history of the life of Peter the Great.
Whistler's mother noted in her diary, "the great artist remarked to me'Your little boy has uncommon genius, but do not urge him beyond his inclination.'"In 1847-48, his family spent some time in London with relatives, while his father stayed in Russia. Whistler's brother-in-law Francis Haden, a physician, an artist, spurred his interest in art and photography. Haden took Whistler to visit collectors and to lectures, gave him a watercolor set with instruction. Whistler was imagining an art career, he began to collect books on art and he studied other artists' techniques. When his portrait was painted by Sir William Boxall in 1848, the young Whistler exclaimed that the portrait was "very much like me and a fine picture. Mr. Boxall is a beautiful colourist... It is a beautiful creamy surface, looks so rich." In his blossoming enthusiasm for art, at fifteen, he informed his father by letter of his future direction, "I hope, dear father, you will not object to my choice." His father, died from cholera at the age of forty-nine, the Whistler family moved back to his mother's hometown of Pomfret, Connecticut.
His art plans remained vague and his future uncertain. The family managed to get by on a limited income, his cousin reported that Whistler at that time was "slight, with a pensive, delicate face, shaded by soft brown curls... he had a somewhat foreign appearance and manner, aided by natural abilities, made him charming at that age." Whistler was sent to Christ Church Hall School with his mother's hopes that he would become a minister. Whistler was without his sketchbook and was popular with his classmates for his caricatures. However, it became clear that a career in religion did not suit him, so he applied to the United States Military Academy at West Point, where his father had taught drawing and other relatives had attended, he was admitted to the selective institution in July 1851 on the strength of his family name, despite his extreme nearsightedness and poor health history. However, during his three years there, his grades were satisfactory, he was a sorry sight at drill and dress, known as "Curly" for his hair length which exceeded regulations.
Whistler bucked authority, spouted sarcastic comments, racked up deme
Popular prints is a term for printed images of low artistic quality which were sold cheaply in Europe and the New World from the 15th to 18th centuries with text as well as images. They were some of the earliest examples of mass media. After about 1800, the types and quantity of images increased, but other terms are used to categorise them. From about 1400, there began a "visual revolution that inundated Europe with images during the fifteenth century" as the woodcut technique was applied to paper, now manufactured in Christian Europe, instead of being imported from Islamic Spain. In the 15th century, the great majority of these images were religious, if playing cards are excluded, they were sold at churches and places of pilgrimage. Most were coloured crudely, by hand or by stencil. One political cartoon relating to events in 1468-70 has survived in several different versions. Old master print is a term that at this period includes popular prints, but is restricted to more expensive and purely artistic prints.
Although early information as to prices is non-existent, it is clear from a number of sources that small woodcuts were affordable by at least the urban working-class, much of the peasant class as well. During the middle of the century, the quality of the images became very low, but there was an improvement towards the end because it was necessary to keep pace with the quality of images in engravings. Engravings were always much more expensive to create, as they needed greater skill to create the plate, which would last for far fewer impressions than a woodcut, they did not come into the popular prints category until the 19th century, when different techniques made them much cheaper. Broadsheets known as broadsides, were a common format, they were single sheets of paper of various sizes sold by street-vendors. Another format was the chapbook a single sheet cut or folded to make a small pamphlet or book. In Spain there were pliegos, in Portugal the papel volante, in other countries other names.
These covered a great variety of material, including pictures, popular history, political comment or satire, almanacs and songs. They could be influential politically, were subsidized by political factions for propaganda purposes. See Broadside for their musical use; the Reformation hugely increased the market for satirical and polemical prints in all counties affected. In France the Wars of Religion, in England the English Civil War and the political convulsions after the Restoration all produced huge quantities of propaganda and polemic, in images as well as text. Despite being issued in large numbers, their survival rate was low, they are now rare, with most having not survived at all; this has been demonstrated by analysis of the records of the London Stationers Company from 1550 onwards. They were commonly pasted to the walls of rooms. Paper was still sufficiently expensive that all available spare pieces tended to be used in the toilet. One of the biggest surviving collections with 439 prints is Wickiana at the Zentralbibliothek Zürich.
Newspapers began as an upmarket and expensive form of broadsheet. The first in English came in 1620. During this century books became much cheaper, began to replace some types of popular print; these trends continued during the next century, although most of the traditional types of popular print lived on until the 19th century or beyond, they were by part of a much wider print culture, the term is not used of them. One type of publication continuing into the 20th century is the Brazilian cordel literature that continue to use woodcuts, is part of a continuous tradition going back to the Portuguese papel volante of the 17th century. Lubok prints in Russia were another local variant. Political caricature prints for sale as single sheets are found as early as the 15th century, but reached the peak of their popularity in much of Europe in the 18th and early 19th century, before the form migrated into newspapers and magazines. Above all they were popular in England, where a high degree of freedom of the press meant that dedicated print-shops also acting as the publishers, could sell and display scathing images of the Royal Family and government politicians, a business that had to remain "under the counter" in much of Europe.
Old master prints, which covers artistic prints. Line engraving is relevant. Printmaking for all the printmaking techniques. Field, Richard. Fifteenth Century Metalcuts. National Gallery of Art Mayor, A. Hyatt. Prints & people: a social history of printed pictures. Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-00326-2 Watt, Tessa. Cheap print and popular piety: 1550-1640. Cambridge studies in early modern British history. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-38255-6 Prints & People: A Social History of Printed Pictures, an exhibition catalog from The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Le Sommeil is an erotic oil painting on canvas by French artist Gustave Courbet created in 1866. The painting, which depicts lesbianism, is known as the Two Friends and Indolence and Lust. Le Sommeil was commissioned by the Turkish diplomat and art collector of the late Ottoman era, Halil Şerif Paşa, who had lived in Paris since 1860; the painting was not permitted to be shown publicly until 1988, like a number of his other works such as L'Origine du monde. When Le Sommeil was exhibited by a picture dealer in 1872, it became the subject of a police report. One of the models for the painting was Joanna Hiffernan, the mistress of fellow painter James Abbott Whistler at the time. Whistler's relationship with Hiffernan ended soon afterwards, his opinion of Courbet soured; the Encyclopedia of Lesbian and Gay Histories and Cultures describes Le Sommeil as a "famous" painting. The painting created an impact in 19th-century art, because after the public display of Le Sommeil, a number of contemporary artists were influenced by the theme of lesbian couples.
Repetition of this theme helped to lower the taboos associated with lesbian relationships. Today Le Sommeil is in the collection of a Paris museum; the painting shows two naked women lying asleep on a bed entwined in an erotic embrace, resting after sexual intercourse. The setting is a bedroom with ornamental furnishing. In the background there is a dark blue velvet curtain and in the right corner a table with a decorative flower vase. In the foreground is a small wooden table holding three items – a colored flacon, a transparent crystal vase, a cup. Except for these few furnishings, there is nothing in the painting to overshadow the main image – the women. One of the sleeping women is redhead, the other is brunette. For color contrast, Courbet worked curves between the women. A broken pearl necklace and a hairpin scattered in the bed reference the nature of their previous activity; the painting was inspired by Charles Baudelaire's poem "Delphine et Hippolyte", from his collection Les Fleurs du mal.
Le Sommeil has been interpreted as a realist painting, detailing the bodies without glossing over their imperfections