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The Valley of Ornans

Gustave Courbet, French, 1819–1877
Oil on canvas
Place depicted
Ornans, Franche-Comté, Western Europe, France, Europe
Current Location
On View, Gallery 206
23 1/2 x 33 5/8 in. (59.7 x 85.4 cm)
framed: 32 11/16 x 40 3/4 x 4 5/16 in. (83 x 103.5 x 11 cm)
Credit Line
Museum Purchase
Public Domain
Object Number
Two disparate expanses of terrain - one infused with afternoon sunlight, the other in shadow - converge in a dramatic composition of geometrical shapes. Gustave Courbet's bold use of the palette knife to apply paint and his rejection of fussy details lend the work a quality of rugged strength.

Courbet painted numerous views of his birth town Ornans, located in the region of Franche-Comté in Eastern France. The area's robust and dramatic topography inspired the artist, and served as a guiding force in his painting.
M. Fevbre, Paris, France [1]

P. Hartwood, Montreal, Canada [2]

by 1925 - 1926
Rhea Reid Topping [3]

T. Eaton Company, Toronto, Canada, purchased from Rhea Reid Topping through M. Knoedler & Co., New York, NY [4]

M. Knoedler & Co., New York, NY, USA, purchased from T. Eaton Company [5]

1926 - 1937
Josef Stransky (1872-1936), New York, NY, purchased from M. Knoedler & Co. [6]

1937 -
Saint Louis Art Museum, purchased from the Josef Stransky estate through Wildenstein & Co., New York, NY [7]

[1] The invoice to the Museum from Wildenstein & Co. lists the previous collections as only M. Fevbre, P. Hartwood, and Josef Stransky [invoice dated November 9, 1937, SLAM document files]. M. Fevbre and P. Hartwood are the sole names included in the provenance of this painting in a 1935 publication about the Josef Stransky collection ["French Masters of the XIX and XX Century: The Private Collection of Josef Stransky, New York. Special Reprint from The Art News Supplement, May 1931, Including Recent Accessions Up to May 1935." New York: Art News, 1935]. An earlier version of this publication lists only P. Hartwood and M. Knoedler & Co. in the provenance for this painting [Flint, Ralph. "The Private Collection of Josef Stransky." "Art News" XXIX, no. 33 (May 16, 1931): 88].

[2] See note [1].

[3] The only source for the inclusion of Rhea Reid Topping and T. Eaton Company in the provenance of this painting is a 1994 exhibition catalogue [Tinterow, Gary, and Henri Loyrette. "Origins of Impressionism." New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1994, cat. 39].

[4] T. Eaton Company was a well-known Canadian department store company. According to the 1994 catalogue, they purchased the painting from Rhea Reid Topping through M. Knoedler & Co. in 1926, and sold it back to M. Knoedler & Co. later that same year (see note [3]).

[5] See note [4]. The 1977 catalogue raisonné includes M. Knoedler & Co. in the provenance directly between P. Hartwood and Josef Stransky; no other collectors are listed, however [Fernier, Robert. "La Vie et l'Oeuvre de Gustave Courbet: Catalogue Raisonné," Vol. I (1819-1865). Paris: Fondation Wildenstein, 1977, cat. 240].

[6] The 1994 catalogue (see note [3]) indicates that Josef Stransky purchased the painting from M. Knoedler & Co. in November 1926. Stransky was the conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. He also had a well-known collection of Modern French paintings which was published in articles in "Art News" in 1931 and 1935 (see note [1]), and exhibited at Marie Harriman Gallery in 1933, the Worcester Art Museum in 1933-1934, and at Wildenstein & Co. in 1936 ["Courbet and Delacroix." New York: Marie Harriman Gallery, November 7-25, 1933, cat. 7; Cott, Perry B. "The Stransky Collection of Modern Art." "Bulletin of the Worcester Art Museum" XXIII, no. IV (Winter, 1933): 147-157; "Collection of a Collector: Modern French Paintings from Ingres to Matisse (The Private Collection of the late Josef Stransky)." New York: Wildenstein & Co., July 1936, cat. 4]. Each of these publications includes this painting.

[7] A letter dated November 8, 1937 from Wildenstein & Co. indicates that the gallery was simply acting as agent for the Stransky estate in the sale of the painting [SLAM document files]. Minutes of the Administrative Board of Control of the City Art Museum, November 4, 1937.
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