Courbet and the Sea: Eyes on Nature in the 19th Century

クールベと海 展

To those who wish to visit the Courbet and the Sea: Eyes on Nature in the 19th Century exhibition

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, we would like to request that you reserve the date and time of your visit in advance from our reservation website.

  • The admission fee is to be paid upon your visit.
  • We are not accepting reservations by phone or at the museum reception.

General Information

Apr. 10 - Jun. 13, 2021
10 a.m. – 6 p.m. (Admittance until 5:30 p.m.)
* Open until 8 p.m. (admittance until 7:30 p.m.) on May 7 and June 4.

[Notice of reopening]
We will reopen from June 1 and the opening hours will be as follows.
1 (Tue) -4 (Fri)   10: 00-18: 00 (Open on Wed)
5 (Sat) and 6 (Sun) 9: 30-19: 00
7 (Mon) -11 (Fri)  10: 00-19: 00 (Open on Wed)
12 (Sat) and 13 (Sun) 9: 30-19: 00
The night opening scheduled for June 4 will be cancelled.
Wednesdays (Except for May 5)
Adults: ¥1000
Visitors aged 65 or over carrying proof of age: ¥900
Students (College): ¥700
Students (High / Middle school): ¥500
Admission is free for children in primary school and younger.
Admission is free for disability passbook holders and up to one accompanying adult.
Panasonic Shiodome Museum of Art, The Yomiuri Shimbun, The Japan Association of Art Museums
Lion Corporation, Dai Nippon Printing Co., Ltd., Sompo Japan Insurance Inc.
Embassy of France in Tokyo / Institut français du Japon, Minato City Board of Education
Japan Airlines Co., Ltd., Uminomanabi Museum Support from the Museum of Maritime Science

Exhibition overview

Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) was one of the finest masters of the Realism movement in 19th century France. Courbet rejected the existing political and artistic institutions of his time, instead choosing to paint truthful and unidealized depictions of the world around him. Nevertheless, he drew high praise for the keen attention to detail and exceptional skill apparent in his many portrayals of the wilderness and fauna in his home region of Franche-Comté, as well as the sea of Normandy, on which he first laid eyes at the age of 22.

Courbet's work as a landscape painter takes center stage in this exhibition, with a particular focus on a series of paintings titled The Wave that he began in the 1860s. Courbet and the Sea explores the distinctive characteristics of the seascape paintings by Courbet, produced during a time when the sea was becoming ever more accessible. To add context, the exhibition also showcases paintings from before Courbet's time that depict the sea as an object of reverence, as well as paintings of the sea as a leisure destination by Courbet’s contemporaries such as Eugène Boudin and Claude Monet.

The approximately 60 pieces in this exhibition include works belonging to collections around Japan, as well as The Wave from the collection of the Musée des Beaux-Arts d’Orléans in France. Visitors are invited to enjoy Courbet's depictions of the mighty ocean in a style that was seen as particularly “odd”—to borrow Courbet’s first impression of the ocean—when considered among other seascape paintings from the same period.

*Some pieces will be rotated midway through the exhibition period, with the first rotation running from April 10 to May 11 and the second from May 13 to June 13. Further information will be published on our website.

Exhibition highlights

1. The first Japanese exhibition to highlight Courbet’s seascapes, including Courbet’s Wave paintings gathered from around Japan and France!

Following a childhood spent in a small mountain village, Courbet went on to produce more than one hundred coastal landscape paintings. This exhibition offers a rare opportunity to see eleven Courbet seascapes on loan from collections around Japan and the world. Of particular note is The Wave (1870) from the Musée des Beaux-Arts d'Orléans in France, which features the same composition as a piece Courbet exhibited at the Paris Salon.

2. The first Courbet exhibition in Japan in nine years, featuring not only his seascapes, but also landscapes and hunting scenes!

The 19th century saw a significant shift in how French people understood the natural world. How did Courbet, a champion of the Realist movement, view nature? The sheer mountains and deep forests of his birthplace of Franche-Comté and the animals inhabiting the area are frequent subjects of his paintings. They offer viewers a glimpse into Courbet's understanding of nature.

3. A chance to explore the connection between Courbet and the Impressionists through works by the movement’s leaders, such as Monet and Boudin!

In the 1860s, Courbet became acquainted with Claude Monet and Eugène Boudin, painting alongside them in Normandy. The exhibition features works in which Monet experimented with the play of light on the sea of southern France, as well as scenes that Boudin painted of Norman beaches transformed into resort destinations. These works illuminate the influences shared by the three artists, as well as the differences that set Courbet’s seascapes apart from those of his contemporaries.

Courbet and Nature: The Independence of the Provinces

From steep cliffs and rolling grasslands to headwater areas dotted with caves and tree-shaded rivers, Courbet painted many scenes of the distinctive terrain around Ornans—the village where he was born and raised in the mountainous region of Franche-Comté near the Swiss border. This section focuses on the landscapes Courbet painted during his frequent visits to his hometown after moving to Paris at the age of 20. The works are exhibited side-by-side with those of other well-known French landscape painters of the 19th century to demonstrate the comparative innovativeness of Courbet’s paintings.

Gustave Courbet, Valley of Franche-Comté, near Ornans, ca. 1865, oil on canvas, The Museum of Modern Art, Ibaraki

Courbet and the Animals: The Wildness of Nature

Wild animals were a familiar sight for Courbet, who was raised deep within nature from a young age and enjoyed the autumn ritual of hunting. In this section, visitors can see how Courbet portrayed animals being hunted and dominated by humans as well as scenes of carefree animals inhabiting the natural environment. Visitors are invited to explore the contrast between Courbet's works and the paintings by contemporaries of the Barbizon school, who painted domesticated livestock in cultivated environments.

Gustave Courbet, The Kill, Deer Hunting in the Grand Jura Forests, ca. 1856-62, oil on canvas, Private Collection

The Sea Before Courbet: From the Sublime to the Picturesque

Western views on nature shifted significantly between the 18th and 19th centuries. Artists moved away from the long-held practice of painting the ocean as a representation of national prosperity, instead preferring to paint images in which the sea itself became an object of appreciation. This section introduces a number of dramatic seascapes painted during this time, when perspectives on the natural world were changing and the sea inspired a sense of awe and wonder.

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Deal, 1826, mezzotint, Koriyama City Museum of Art

The Sea in Courbet’s Time: A Familiar Presence

During the 19th century, the network of railroads linking Paris to the major coastal cities was undergoing a rapid expansion, triggering a similarly rapid shift in how people viewed the sea—from an object of awe and wonder to a familiar presence in people’s lives. The Parisian middle class could travel by train to the seaside on holidays, where they enjoyed leisurely pursuits by the coast. In the works exhibited in this section, coastal landscapes have taken on a more familiar presence through the eyes of Courbet and his contemporaries Eugène Boudin, Claude Monet, and Gustave Caillebotte.

Eugène Boudin, On the Beach, oil on canvas, Private Collection

Courbet’s Sea: Strange and Mysterious

Given his upbringing in the mountains, it was not until Courbet was 22 years old that he first laid eyes on the sea. He described his first impression of the sea as “odd.” More than twenty years later, Courbet found himself spending time along the coast of Normandy every year from 1865 to 1869, ultimately leaving behind over one hundred paintings of the sea. Of the seascape paintings that Courbet devoted his attention to starting in 1865, eleven have been selected to be showcased in this final section of the exhibition.

Gustave Courbet, The Wave, 1869, oil on canvas, The Museum of Art, Ehime