One of Gustave Courbet’s most significant canvases, Good Day, Monsieur Courbet depicts a chance meeting of the painter, his patron Alfred Bruyas and Bruyas’s servant Calas, on a road outside Montpellier.
The painting teases the often fraught relationship of painter and private patron. Bruyas had trained as a painter, but poor health kept him from the practice. It is possible that Bruyas-the-patron represented a surrogate Bruyas-the-painter. In courting the country’s most astute and critically-engaged contemporary painter, Bruyas made claims to the progress of contemporary painting. The painting thus marks in the most compelling way the ambition of the collector, keen to insert his own name, taste and generosity into the history of painting. Courbet was acutely aware of this relationship. Note the way in which only Courbet stands on the earth; neither the deferential Bruyas nor Calas cast a shadow, as if only the painter, as labourer, is of this earth.