Tag Archives: Gustave Courbet

On vandalism


The Wikipedia bio of Guy Debord says “Guy attended high school in Cannes, where he began his interest in film and vandalism.”

I wonder where that came from.

But the Wikipedia article is right, of course, Debord was a vandal, whether he practiced it or not. For example, his movement was the seat of organizations like the Scandinavian Institute of Comparative Vandalism. Moreover, in The Society of the Spectacle, Debord praised “General Ludd”.

I used to be a practicing vandal too when a malcontent teenager.

And I’m still in favor of creative destruction.

I started thinking about vandalism when I researched dérive, which revolves around the “improper use” of certain city quarters, using them for something they were not intended for; and détournement, which is just one step away from vandalism.

I was also reminded of the surrealist architectural project Experimental Research into Certain Possibilities of Irrational Embellishment of a City.

And then the story of Gustave Courbet and the Vendome Column came to mind, “the century’s most radical artistic art,” according to the pamphlet “The Revolution of Modern Art and the Modern Art of Revolution“.

But the ‘Vendome Column’ episode was a tragic one for Gustave Courbet, really.

It ruined Courbet.

Just before he died.

Icon of Erotic Art #55

There is a scene in the film Story of O which juxtaposes a woman’s face in the throes of orgasm and the face of another woman who is being tortured. Supposedly, the facial expressions of both women cannot be distinguished, at least, that’s what the film claims (I don’t know whether the same claim is made in the book).

This is the first thing that came to my mind when I laid eyes on the recently published supposedly long-lost upper section of Gustave Courbet’s masterpiece The Origin of the World[1], a painting of a young woman’s face and shoulders which was — again supposedly — severed from the original work.

The woman depicted is the Irish redhead Joanna Hiffernan, who must have been around 23 when this work was painted. Joanna “Jo” Hiffernan (ca. 1843 – after 1903) was also the model of and romantically linked with American painter James Abbott McNeill Whistler, who painted her as The White Girl. Courbet also painted her as La belle Irlandaise and Le Sommeil.

I think the work is fantastic (regardless if it is a part of L’Origine or not) and frankly, just as exciting as the world famous beaver shot of the lower section. I love orgiastic faces (and swooning women) and I am not the only one. There is the website ‘Beautiful Agony,’ of which the name at least seems to corroborate the claim of the narrator of the Story of O.

The upper section of ‘L’Origine is Icon of Erotic Art #55.