Bruce Krebs presents and comments on the creation of the one of his sculptures entitled :

Gustave Courbet's workshop
a sculpture by Bruce Krebs.

One morning, I woke up with the idea of a box which opens in three pieces. Gustave Courbet is in the centre, in front of his painter's rest. I immediately made a little sketch. And I wrote the word "triptych": the basic idea of the sculpture.

Fortunately, between this project and the finished bronze, there will be great differences. Cuttings of the three parts are already present. On the right hand side, I drew a window. I remembered that there was one in Gustave Courbet's picture at the Orsay Museum.
(I had had another look at that picture the previous month with the Courbet exhibit at the Grand Palais in Paris)

I also drew two small handles, possibly to close the box... (Perhaps I imagined that this sculpture would open only on special occasions like an altar piece ...)

(Here my first sketch "the rising hand ".)

Right away, to get an idea of the width of my project, I made a cardboard model. I evaluated the ideal size. I also estimated the weight of the statue, once in bronze. ( I always try to make bronze casts I can transport...)

This box was too massive. I thus bored holes in it. For the front face, I imagined, Courbet's"bathers" with their backs to turned us.


I fancied the idea of associating several paintings. I drew trees on the other side. I increased the size of the central stage, always rounded like a proscenium. I also gave up the idea of handles on the sides.

It took me a little more than one year. I did not work daily on this plaster mould. The ideas were added one by one. My main concern was to equip the roof and the back of the piece: To avoid the "box" spirit. I played with sizes, and textures.
I created a large character hovering above the scene. The "increased" copy of the character, the one behind the painter. But this time blown up. His attitude is soft and intent. This model seems to present the sculpture.

But it was not enough. I also imagined to reproduce Courbet walking, inspired from the picture "Bonjour Mr Courbet". (displayed at the Fabre Museum in Montpellier) This character is of intermediate size. On the other side, "sifter girls" (inspired by the splendid painting of the Fine arts' Museum of Nantes). Conversely, these sifters are the smallest characters of the sculpture.

In a such a small space, I could not reproduce all the characters of "Courbet's workshop". I had to make choices.

  • Baudelaire sitting at a small table, on the right.
  • The couple of wealthy middle-class men.
  • The lovers: The man holds the woman's waist. She seems delighted by bracelet that he gave her...
  • The violinist in a strange position, with the violin under his arm without precaution...

On the central part I reproduced the three friends (slightly smaller to give an illusion of perspective). The living model and her extraordinarily rich dress. (Richer than the an upper middle-class woman's dress). Courbet painting. And behind the rest, slightly hidden, the Irish woman nursing her baby.

On the left finally:

  • Merchants. The first proposes an animal's skin to a tradesman under an Indian's bewildered eye. (I put that Indian standing upright "to break" the horizontality, whereas it was represented squatting on Courbet's painting because all the other characters where sitting, kneeling or lying down. Besides I added him at the very last moment, just the day before I carried the piece to be cast in bronze ...)
  • Behind the door, the poacher is sitting with his two dogs.
  • Under the trees, I placed a couple taking a nap. It is after a drawing by Courbet "pastoral Nap", a sketch of "portrait of the artist aka The wounded man". This drawing expresses true happiness. (Courbet represented himself).

What about the other faces?
On the right one, the two lovers appear in the window.

In the other side, a door is half-open. A man seems to be leaving without closing it. He has one foot above an empty space. This situation didn't come from a painting, but from the painter's life. I imagined this door as "an exit from the workshop". After the "Commune de Paris" (1871), Courbet was falsely accused of having had the Vendome column pulled down. He was sentenced to pay for the damage, and had to run away to exile in Switzerland. I thus represented him with a beret on his head like the one he's wearing in his self-portrait in the Sainte-Pelagie prison. He carries a thin portfolio under the arm, a vestige of the past.

As for the back face, it posed major problems to me. I thought of reproducing "the burial in Ornans" exhibited in front of hordes of horrified art collectors. - It was a memorable scandal. Finally, I chose a more sober solution: the embroidered dress slips gently down the body of the live model...

I had a lot of fun, I must admit

Plaster in closed position,
The statue measures:
Height: 38 cm, Length: 36 cm, Width: 35 cm.

Do you want to go back

towards the workshop of the sculptures?

Bruce Krebs, sculptor
9 ter rue Amelot, 17 000 La Rochelle,
France, Europe.
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