Gustave Courbet’s L’Origine du Monde and Its Socioeconomic Implications

  • Jürgen G. Backhaus
Part of the European Heritage in Economics and the Social Sciences book series (EHES, volume 5)


This article explores a link between modern painting in the realistic tradition and socioeconomic change. It focuses on Gustave Courbet’s famous painting The Origin of the World (L’Origine du Monde) which has recently been rediscovered after having long been thought either missing or destroyed. The realistic painting is discussed in terms of both its artistic and its socioeconomic impact. The article first discusses the painting in the context of the life and work of its author. It then turns to the extended social policy implications of the work and finally to Courbet’s extraordinary propaganda stunt of hiding the message for greater effectiveness.


Gustave Courbet (1819–1877) Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809–1865) Commune of Paris family Origin of the World sexuality 


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  1. Boudaille, Georges (1981). G. Courbet. Paris: Nouvelles Editions Françaises. New International Encyclopaedia (1923). New York: Dodd, Mead and Co.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jürgen G. Backhaus
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of Law, Economics and Social SciencesUniversity of ErfurtGermany

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