The Stream of the Black Well
Apart from the large compositions from between 1848 and 1855, landscape represents a large part of Courbet’s work. He was originally from the countryside and always remained loyal to his native land of Ornans. Thus, here we find ourselves in one of the places the painter often portrays, the entry to the Gorges de la Brême, near Ornans, beneath a dense canopy called the Black Well. The first known version of this landscape dates from 1855 but it is in 1865-1866 that Courbet paints the greatest number of these pieces. The lighting and the secret atmosphere of the Barbizon woods, which here appears to be transposed to Franche-Comté, give the viewer the impression of penetrating one of the hidden places of nature. But most importantly, The Stream of the Black Well is an extraordinary demonstration of Courbet’s technique, applying his colour onto canvasses covered with a dark preparation, as though he was trying to rival the revealing power of light.