Gustave Courbet, ‘Origin of the World’
Oil on canvas, 1866 45 x 55cm, Musee D’Orsay, Paris.
Why I think this painting is profoundly significant is that I think it challenges and raises more questions than answers.
Firstly there are 3 things happening….
1) The image (the way it is composed and painted), (external).
2) The Title (internal)
3) The significance/ Challenge on our understandings/ The provocation.
As a painting regardless of the subject matter, it is technically painted well.
Dare i say it is beautifully painted with consideration and sensitivity.
The foreshortened torso of a female, focuses the viewer’s sight and mind to a woman’s parted legs revealing her vagina.
We see the woman as an object, but not as an individual person .
That itself is deliberate, so the viewer stays laser beamed focused on the message (combined image and title)
The Image is instantly recognisable, it is from this place that every human being comes into the world regardless of cultural beliefs, nationality or skin colour.
The Title focuses the mind to think in a particular direction, asking the viewer to think about the origins of our species.
It is these two combined perspectives that resonate with the curious, un-prejudiced, open mind.
It makes me think about the nature of procreation and the nature of desire of all living things, but especially our species.
One is nature dictating and guaranteeing the survival of a species (procreation).
The other is us (as a species), projecting our desire, through the act of procreation (we call it either sex or making love).
The painting (Object) confronts us with our desires, our motives and ourselves.
Where as most paintings (objects) allow us to view them as a form of none confrontational entertainment.
Also the year in which it was painted, the world was in the midst of the industrial revolution (from a certain perspective) and was a very different world that had different understandings.
People had a different existence than the world of today (with the Internet, mobile phones, airplanes, cars, etc….).
But yet, although we have shaped the landscape to our own conveniences, (a physical evolution)
We haven’t evolved internally (an internal evolution) as we still live and die(time) and are ruled by our base desires (hunger, toilet, sleep, sex…)
This is why I think this painting is so significant as it questions our internal desires and motives of where we are now as a species….
It is by becoming aware of our desires and motives that will allow us to evolve internally.