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Exploring Art and the Senses

Featuring Gustave Courbet's La Source de la Loue (The Source of the Loue), ca. 1864

Gustave Courbet (French, 1819–1877). La Source de la Loue (The Source of the Loue), ca. 1864. Oil on canvas, 42 1/4 x 54 1/8 inches (107.3 x 137.5 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; George B. and Jenny R. Mathews Fund, 1959 (1959:1).

Lesson Plan Details

Conceptual Basis

During the nineteenth century, when French paintings often depicted romanticized scenes of daily life, artist Gustave Courbet chose to paint “observed realities,” making bold statements on society with his artwork. Criticized for painting peasants and workers, Courbet captured life including scenes from his home region, Ornans, France. One of the area’s natural wonders is the source of the Loue River, which flows through Ornans. Courbet was fascinated by the geologic structure of this caved grotto. In La Source de la Loue, ca. 1864, Courbet painted this special place realistically, adding textural features intended to awaken the viewer’s senses. This lesson explores the way art can be experienced through the senses and how the senses can inspire artmaking.