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Gustave Courbet, 'The Diligence in the Snow', 1860

Key facts
Full title The Diligence in the Snow
Artist Gustave Courbet
Artist dates 1819 - 1877
Date made 1860
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 137.2 × 199.1 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Sir Hugh Lane Bequest, 1917, The National Gallery, London. In partnership with Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin.
Inventory number NG3242
Location On loan: Long Loan to The Hugh Lane (2019 - 2031), Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane, Dublin, Ireland
Collection Main Collection
The Diligence in the Snow
Gustave Courbet

The high viewpoint in this painting opens up the prospect of the vast distance, heightening its very real feeling of terror – yet the viewpoint also places us at a safe distance from the scene, without it losing its hold. The chaos of the overturned coach, the rearing horse and the bodies flailing about in the snow is matched only by the fear of the empty, impassive expanse of forest from which no help will come. Overhead the clouds darken and thicken; snow and yet more snow is on its way.

The white paint for the rocks and snow has been heaped on, smoothed or scraped back with a palette knife; the forest has been depicted with a dry brush drawn through a layer of black paint on white. Courbet painted several snow scenes and became an acknowledged master of the genre, capturing the light and brilliance of a landscape under snow.

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