The Quarry (La Curée)
Gustave Courbet (French, 1819–1877)
210.2 x 183.5 cm (82 3/4 x 72 1/4 in.)
Medium or Technique
Oil on canvas
The Beal Gallery (Gallery 251)
Courbet was the self-styled leader of the Realist movement in French art. Most of his paintings of modern life were condemned as offensively ordinary, but The Quarry was well received when it was exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1857. Probably set in the Jura Mountains along the French-Swiss border, the painting features the artist himself, posed as a huntsman. Courbet enlarged the original canvas as he worked, adding one piece across the top above the hunter’s head and others to include the horn blower and the dogs. In 1866 when he learned that The Quarry had been purchased by a group of young Boston artists, Courbet exclaimed: “What care I for the Salon, what care I for honors, when the art students of a new and great country know and appreciate and buy my works?”
Lower right: G. Courbet
1858, sold by the artist to van Isacker, Antwerp, for 8,000 francs; 1862, exchanged by van Isacker with the Galerie Cadart et Luquet, Paris [see note 1]; April, 1866, brought to the United States by Cadart et Luquet and sold to the Allston Club, Boston, for 25,000 francs ($5000) [see note 2]; about 1873, upon the dissolution of the Allston Club, passed to Henry Sayles (b. 1834 - d. 1918), Boston; 1918, by inheritance to his nephew, George Tappan Francis, Boston and Needham, MA; 1918, sold by George Tappan Francis to the MFA for $75,000. (Accession Date: September 12, 1918)
 See René Brunesoeur, Museum Contemporain: Biographies. Gustave Courbet (Paris, 1867), p. 22 and Robert Fernier, "En Voyage avec Courbet," Les Amis de Gustave Courbet 1966, p. 43. Citing Fernier, Bruce K. MacDonald suggested that the artist "probably transferred the painting" to him in 1858; see his "The Quarry by Gustave Courbet," MFA Bulletin 67, no. 348 (1969): 52. Van Isacker exhibited the painting in 1860; see "Catalogue de Tableaux Tirés de Collections d'Amateurs" (26 Boulevard des Italiens, Paris, 1860), cat. no. 125 (measuring 160 x 175 cm.). Courbet enlarged the painting in 1862 at the insistence of the dealer Luquet.
 On the sale of the painting to the Allston Club, see "Boston Painters and Paintings," The Atlantic Monthly 62 (October, 1888): 503-504 and Martha A. S. Shannon, "Boston Days of William Morris Hunt" (Boston, 1923), pp. 87-88. The Allston Club exhibited the painting in 1866 ("First Exhibition," cat. no. 1) and 1867 ("Second Annual Exhibition," cat. no. 1), and lent it to the Boston Athenaeum between 1869 and 1872.
Henry Lillie Pierce Fund