Young Ladies of the Village by Gustave Courbet

Featured Painting of the Day The Young Ladies of the Village was painted by Gustave Courbet in 1852. It represents a sizeable rocky landscape with a group of small figures in light coloured clothing and some cattle on the second level. The three young women are walking in a valley outside the village of Ornans. As they come on a young shepherd, one of the women opens her food basket and gives the young woman a treat. The girls freehand is close to her body, perhaps indicating her reluctance to accept the gift. The three women are incongruously dressed to the nines as they saunter to a picnic area. The other two women view the exchange in a somewhat condescending air. The painting shows a detailed rendering of their parasols, bonnets and hats that the women are wearing. Critics referred to the work as awkward and common. They found that the woman’s clothes were plain and tasteless. They criticised the ridiculous little dog and the undersize cattle. Although the cattle, dog and women are on different levels, they form a single line running across the painting. Courbet declared that the painting was intended to mislead his judges and “put them on new terrain.” Shifting the terms of the realist debate.

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