Courbet portrayed himself smoking a pipe several times in the late 1840s. A painting, submitted to the Salon of 1850–51, now in Montpellier, presents him with a dreamy, almost somnolent expression. That painting, probably done in 1849, originally showed the artist in a hat, which must date from this same time.
In portraying himself as a peasant (his family were in fact wealthy farmers), Courbet may have been inspired by Dutch low-life genre painting. The defiant, arrogant expression of the drawing, however, surely reflects Courbet’s identification with the peasantry and disdain for the social and artistic status quo of nineteenth-century France.
Self-Portrait, c. 1849
Black chalk on paper
Purchased through the gift of James Junius Goodwin, 1950.605