Max Buchon was a friend of Gustave Courbet. Max wrote an essay to publicize Courbet’s painting of the stonebreakers and a burial at Ornan. He wrote about the two paintings, what he thought about them and what the author thought about them. He also talked about how these paintings were so very realistic in the way the showed the bourgeoisie life. He also argued about Courbet not being a socialist as people thought he was. He showed why he thought that, and what Courbet really intended to do.
Buchon starts off by talking about the stonebreakers painting. He says that the painting represents two life-like figures “alpha and the omega”. He describes the characters of the painting as “that poor worker you know”. He calls the kid in the picture stupid because misery often leads too stupidity. After describing the child, he describes the old man in the picture. Saying that he is good and a hard worker that probably gives a puff of his smoke to strangers he meets. He describes how good he is because of experience, but also how tired he gets because of his old age. How he works even in holidays to earn money to eat by “paving the road for mankind passing by”.
Buchon seems disturbed by the thought of the stonebreakers not being part of the artist imagination, but actually real people that he sees every day. Then he goes to talk about what he calls Courbet’s principal work of the year; a burial at Ornans.
Max seems fascinated by the amount of work put in by the artist for a burial at Ornans. He tells us how big it is and life like it is because he has seen those people in Ornans. He says they are wearing traditional outfits and that there are many people in the painting but you still have to look at the gravedigger. Again Buchon is concerned with the poorest of the working class. He talks about how the digger is on his knees waiting for the coffin. He says that the gravedigger gives the painting a whole new dimension because there is a contrast between the other people. It also contrasted with earlier days when even the must noble that attended to the funeral had to dance around whether they liked it or not.
After he talks about the paintings, he talks about politics and how you can tell when a painter is a socialist. That is the point he wants to make through out his essay. He thinks that it is not enough to paint those two portraits to show a desire to improve the condition of the working class. That it is not good to classify paintings that way, like most people do. That it would classify the artists in parties.
Max doesn’t even want to keep talking about it because he says that the truth will not be reached that Courbet is not a socialist. If the Courbet was a socialist painter, his works would become quickly out dated as the doctrine it self says. Max said that if a painting started teaching, that the painting would not be a painting any more, but a very boring lecture because there would be no preacher.
The painting, according to Buchon, is not trying to prove anything. It is just a representation of a man being brought to his grave by many people that love him. He opposes, what people say about the portrait being to ugly and exaggerated. He says that the province is like that, not Paris. And that it is uglier to paint a businessman with his pale face and thin lips.
Over all, Buchon is concerned with what the people think about the portrait because he loves it. He wants people to know that it looks like real life, that it is even life size. Max thinks that Courbet is a genius and separates painters with mediocrity because he put so much work in it.