Courbet - L'Origine du monde
Geometric composition of painting

Study of François Murez - www.francois-murez.com
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To the question whether the Origine du monde is a canvas full or a fragment of a larger canvas would have cut Courbet, it is interesting to answer an approach implemented by the composition.

Courbet, and painters of his time have little interest in the composition of paintings and often simply use the rabatment of sides. This is what Charles Bouleau says in his book : The Painter's Secret Geometry.

The technique of rabatment of the sides is explained in my page detailing the composition.

Before looking at the Origine du monde, the work brings to discussions, analyze a painting of the same dimensions. (55cm x 46 cm)




La Réflexion


La Réflexion (1864) - Musée de la Chartreuse, Douai


Apply a first square and its diagonals.

This square precisely determines the woman's head, place her hand and neckline.
Now place the second square.

It puts the coat and ear.
Draw vertical and horizontal lines to the various intersections of the diagonals.

Lines put the nose, loop hair, hair ribbon, and chin.

Finally, a diagonal gives shoulder.

And on this painting, the rabatment of sides is applied by Courbet to place elements of his painting.
So what happens to the Origine du monde ?




L'origine du monde


L'origine du monde (1866) - Musée d'Orsay, Paris


First place a square.

The intersection of the diagonals gives the exact position of the pubis.
Let's put the other square.

Then a number of vertical and horizontal lines, resulting from the cross of the diagonals.

It is true that the grid lines do not give much. But, this is not surprising since the painting is built on diagonals. Then ?
Now, trace diagonals from the ends of these preceding lines.

This gives precisely one leg and the body of the woman. The diagonals are two vanishing points which give depth to the painting.

Finally, trace others diagonals on the same principle.

The sheet is well placed and with these three lines, it envelops the body, dresses it while magnifying his nakedness.

My work on geometric composition taught me that all great artists are based on the frame of their painting to build their composition, they are keen on geometry as Clouet, Domela or Mondrian, they flee the rules as Arp they are already embraced by death as Staël or eastern as Wu Zhen ... The frame determines the composition, once the artist has chosen its principle of construction (golden section, rabatment, ...)
Composition by rabatment of the sides is usual at the time of Courbet. The organization of Courbet's painting is too close to the lines determined by the composition said rabatment of the sides to be the result of a subsequent cutting even with a trained eye.
But after all, this is a complete painting or a fragment, it will always be the beautiful work and this is the only thing that matters.


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