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Artist at work - 160 years ago

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Courbet's 'The Painter's Studio' opens the whole field of modernist art's mission. After an introductory explanation of the painting, we enter its immediate context: the year 1855, when it was exhibited on the opposite side of the entrance to the Universal Exposition. There is another context, that of the atelier as such: the atelier was a common name for artisans' workshops and studios. But during this period, it became more than that. It was Louis Blanc's proposal for a solution to society's disorders: without ateliers as free associations of workers, the free market deteriorates into crisis. He had strong opponents. Their ideologue was Michel Chevalier, who claimed that only a free market without associationism could save modern society from its instabilities. Courbet's painting is an allegory of capitalist society and an image of the artist's atelier as a place from which a critical political economy of the world is revealed.
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Keywords: Gustave Courbet; Louis Blanc; Michel Chevalier; Universal Exhibition 1855; art and political economy; atelier

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Ljubljana

Publication date: December 1, 2014

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