Courbet’s Grotte de la Source Enneige (c.1866)
This painting like many of Courbet's images of caves and the sources of rivers consists of a dark hole with rock swirling around it in the form of an eye. In this case the rock on the right can be seen as the bone at the top of the nose, the rest of the nose theoretically descending under the snow-covered ground. The sweep of the rock in the top left corner also suggests the shape of skin above a right eye facing us. It is, metaphorically, the artist's eye with darkness suggesting insight. Water flowing out of rock was a fertile symbol for Courbet.
More Works by Courbet
Michael Fried read this painting exactly as we would 20 years ago
It does not take a genius to recognize that Courbet has turned the rock at left into a human face with water sprouting from the mouth.
Original Publication Date on EPPH: 11 May 2010. © Simon Abrahams. Articles on this site are the copyright of Simon Abrahams. To use copyrighted material in print or other media for purposes beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. Websites may link to this page without permission (please do) but may not reproduce the material on their own site without crediting Simon Abrahams and EPPH.