Jules-François-Félix Husson (1821-1889), a novelist and art critic better known under the pseudonym of "Champfleury", was one of Courbet's first supporters. In Paris, he was a frequent visitor to the Brasserie Andler, the meeting place of the Realists. Within the group Courbet was nicknamed the "high priest in name" whereas Champfleury was the "cardinal in deed".
Probably painted in 1854, this portrait was a study for The Artist's Studio. The writer is featured in it on the right hand side of the painting, among the artist's friends. The two works were presented together at the Universal Exhibition of 1855, a date which appears at the bottom of the portrait. In a letter to a mutual friend, Champfleury expressed how unhappy he was about the way Courbet represented him in dans The Artist's Studio: "I was appalled at this image of myself which made me look like the Jesuit General... This damned portrait is monstrous". It is not surprising to discover that the friendship between the painter and the writer went through some difficult times.
The painting was part of a series of about twenty portraits of famous people, painted by Courbet throughout his career.