The Wave, Gustave Courbet
Gustave Courbet
The Wave
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Gustave Courbet

The Wave, 1869 – 1870

65.6 x 92.4 cm
Physical Description
Oil on canvas
Inventory Number
Acquired in 1908, property of Städelscher Museums-Verein e.V.
On display, 1st upper level, Modern Art, room 4


About the Work

A thundering wave rolls directly towards the viewer, threatening to carry him off into the turbulent sea. Courbet painted this natural spectacle during stormy weather on the coast of Normandy some sixty times. Executed between 1865 and 1870, the series already sparked the attention of his contemporaries. In addition to the delicate palette, they were fascinated above all by the symbolic import of the wave paintings. Nature unleashed is not only a metaphor for the struggle of life. For Courbet, the wave signified violence and destruction, but also creation and renewal.

Work Data

Basic Information

The Wave
Production Place
Period Produced
Object Type
Physical Description
Oil on canvas
Label at the Time of Manufacture
Signiert unten links: G. Courbet.

Property and Acquisition

Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, Eigentum des Städelschen Museums-Vereins e.V.
Picture Copyright
Public Domain
Acquired in 1908, property of Städelscher Museums-Verein e.V.

Work Content

Motifs and References


  • 26A4 low clouds and those originating from rising air currents

Research and Discussion


Object History
Jan Herman van Eeghen (1849-1918), Amsterdam, Verkauf durch Obach & Co., London an den Städelschen Museums-Verein e.V., Frankfurt am Main, 1907.


Since 2001, the Städel Museum has systematically been researching the provenance of all objects that were acquired during the National Socialist period, or that changed owners or could have changed owners during those years. The basis for this research is the “Washington Declaration”, also known as the “Washington Conference Principles”, formulated at the 1998 “Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets” and the subsequent “Joint Declaration”.

The provenance information is based on the sources researched at the time they were published digitally. However, this information can change at any time when new sources are discovered. Provenance research is therefore a continuous process and one that is updated at regular intervals.

Ideally, the provenance information documents an object’s origins from the time it was created until the date when it found its way into the collection. It contains the following details, provided they are known:

  • the type of acquisition and/or the way the object changed hands
  • the owner's name and place of residence
  • the date on which it changed hands

The successive ownership records are separated from each other by a semicolon.

Gaps in the record of a provenance are indicated by the placeholder “…”. Unsupported information is listed in square brackets.

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Conservation and Restoration

Art-technology findings and/or documentation regarding conservation and restoration are available for this work. If interested, please contact .

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