Gustave Courbet’s The Artist’s Studio: A Real Allegory Summing up Seven Years of My Life, 1855, illustrates the artist as laborer in his studio. Due to information gleaned from an accompanying letter, the figures on the left are meant to be models, who had posed for him over the previous years. They represent the democratic ideal: rich and poor, Christian and Jew, male and female, soldiers, clergy, professionals, farmers, and people seen on the street. The figures on the right side are the patrons who supported him over the years. They represent capitalism for without their financial and professional support, Courbet would not have survived as a professional artist.





At center, two figures watch him paint, a young boy and a woman. The young boy symbolizes wide-eyed innocence (disegno esterno), and the naked woman symbolizes the naked truth. Disegno esterno is obviously pivotal for artists representing life as lived, the democratic ideal.

Courbet’s Stone Breakers, 1849, illustrates the artist’s interest in working class values of labor and hard work, almost a Biblical “you shall work from the sweat of your brow.” We have the sense that Courbet actually stood there on the road in order to observe the specific details of the labor, clothing (torn and tattered), and the tools and workplace setting. In this era of Revolutions, when the common man has the right to vote, he has the potential of becoming a monumental figure in art. It was upon his back that the country was built. Again, disegno esterno is the true reflection of life as lived.