This obscure object of desire. Around The Origin of the World

Gustave Courbet (1819-1877)
 L'origine du monde [The Origin of the World]
 Oil on canvas
 H. 46; W. 55 cm
 Paris, Musée d'Orsay
Gustave CourbetThe Origin of the World© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski
Little known during Gustave Courbet's lifetime and unknown to the general public until 1995, The Origin of the World (Musée d'Orsay) is an unclassifiable and ambiguous work that is both fascinating and sensual.

The Musée Courbet is dedicating an exhibition to it, in partnership with the Musée d'Orsay, the first to be dedicated to this painting which is rarely presented outside of its museum. It invites the viewer to question the ways in which artists view the female genitalia.

Beyond the captivating and original history of this major work, the exhibition evokes the artistic representation of the female genitalia, from the Renaissance to current times, when it becomes a subject in its own right.
The presentation plays on the staging of the gaze, whether it be of an erotic, scientific, poetic or symbolic nature. One section of the exhibition brings together tributes paid by contemporary artists to Courbet's painting. The parallel display of period works and different techniques testify to the constant artistic and rich quest that this theme has provoked.

In total, 70 works (paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, engravings, etc.), including 10 on loan from the Musée d'Orsay, are displayed alongside The Origin of the World. Some are taken from private collections and have never been on display to the public before; The Origin of the World is notably surrounded by Auguste Rodin's [Iris, Messenger of the Gods considered in the field of sculpture as the equivalent of the motif painted by Corbet, and The Shell by Odilon Redon (Musée d'Orsay).
Works by Albrecht Dϋrer, Edgar Degas, Auguste Rodin, Georges Lacombe, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Louise Bourgeois, André Raffray, and André Masson, among others, are also exhibited.

General curators

Frédérique Thomas-Maurin, chief curator, Musée Gustave Courbet
Julie Delmas, deputy curator, Musée Gustave Courbet
Elise Boudon, assistant curator, Musée Gustave Courbet

Scientific curators

Antoinette Le Normand-Romain, Executive Director, Institut national d'Histoire de l'Art
Isolde Pludermacher, curator of paintings, Musée d'Orsay
Thierry Savatier, art historian

Exhibition organised by the Musée Courbet, with the support of the Musée d'Orsay.

7 June - 1 September 2014

Ornans, musée Courbet

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