Courbet once wrote of Laure Borreau, the sitter in this portrait, "I am in love with a splendid lady, the driving force behind my triumph."
Painted during Courbet's stay in the Saintonge region of western France, this portrait depicts Laure Borreau, owner of a fabric store and ladies confectionery. As the leader of the Realist movement in France, Courbet aimed to convey his democratic and socialist ideals by portraying ordinary people in a truthful, unidealized manner. While considering himself a radical innovator, Courbet nonetheless exhibited this portrait under the title Mme L... at the Paris Salon of 1863.
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