Gustave Courbet, from a letter to Alfred Bruyas, (October) 1853.
He went on telling me that the government was sorry to see me striving alone, that I had to change my ideas, put some water in the wine, that they all liked me, that I shouldn’t be a hard head, etc., all kinds of nonsense like that. Then he ended his little introduction telling me that the government wanted me to give my best effort to a painting for the Exposition of 1855 and he gave me his word that if I presented a sketch and the painting was done, he would submit it to a committee of artists of my choice and to a committee of his choice.
I responded immediately that I understood absolutely nothing of what he had just told me, first of all because he said he was a Government and I felt in no way included in this Government, and I, too, was a Government and I dared his to do anything for mine that I might accept. Then I told him that I considered his Government as a simple Individual…
and I went on saying that I was the sole judge of my painting, that I was not only a painter, but a man, that I did not make art for art’s sake, but to achieve my intellectual freedom…
He told me, “Monsieur Courbet, you’re very arrogant.”
I answered, “I’m surprised you only see that now. Sir, I am the most arrogant, the proudest man in France.”
Tags: Gustave Courbet