|Gustave Courbet's - The Stone Breakers 1849|
This painting is an important demonstration
of new approaches towards subject matter and representation
in nineteenth century French art
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The emergence of the Avant-Garde was in response to the growth of the middle-class as the new dominating social force in Western society. The Avant-Garde sought to make a critique of the social class by detaching itself from it and challenging the middle-class's values through their art. Avant-Garde artists as a result endeavored to critique bourgeoisie institutions such as the Salon and the Ecole des Beaux Arts for upholding the values and manner of representing subject matter of the past, and in doing so Avant-Garde artists such as Gustave Courbet constantly challenged and defied what had been decreed as convention by such institutions through his radical subject matter and the manner in which he treated his subject manner. As Courbet would represent the harsh, brutal existence of the rural peasantry on a monumental scale, thus challenging convention by endowing his figures with the prestige of History Painting. Thereby challenging the hierarchy of the genres, as upheld by bourgeoisie institutions; and by showing disregard for tradition and conventions through their innovative treatment and approach towards their subject matter. In summary the avant-garde artists where contesting the traditional practices and conventions within the art world, by seeking to undermine their influence and control over artistic modes of expression; and in doing so they revolutionised treatment and handling of subject matter and supplanted modes of display which were rooted in the past by trying to represent contemporary society in their art. As these influential artists were operating in an age of modernity.