Suisse, a former artist’s model, established an informal—and extremely liberal—art school in Paris which the young Courbet attended in the mid-1840s. By the time of this portrait, dated to 1861, Manet, Monet, and Pissarro had also studied at the Académie Suisse. The sitter’s spectacles and tousled gray hair indicate that he is getting on in age, but his gaze is sharp and animated; a fitting tribute to an early creative influence, painted the same year that Courbet opened a teaching studio of his own.
Inscription: Signed (left edge): G. Courbet.
Brivet (in 1867); the artist's cousin, Félix Courbet, Paris (until 1882; his sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, December 21, 1882, no. 18, as "Portrait de M. Suisse," for Fr 1,080); Mr. Gadala (in 1894; deposited at Durand-Ruel, Paris, December 28; deposit no. 8595, as "Portrait de Mr. Suisse"); Mr. and Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, New York (possibly from about 1895–96; until his d. 1907); Mrs. H. O. (Louisine W.) Havemeyer, New York (1907–d. 1929; cat., 1931, pp. 98–99, ill.)
Paris. Rond-Point du Pont de l'Alma. "Exposition des œuvres de M. G. Courbet," April 30–November 1867, no. 72 (as "M. Suisse [Paris, 1861]," lent by M. Brivet).
Paris. École des Beaux-Arts. "Exposition des œuvres de Gustave Courbet," May 1882, no. 43 (as "Portrait de M. Suisse," lent by Félix Courbet).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The H. O. Havemeyer Collection," March 11–November 2, 1930, no. 27 (as "M. Suisse") [2nd ed., 1958, no. 91].
Baltimore Museum of Art. "An Exhibition of Paintings by Courbet," May 3–29, 1938, no. 5 (as "Portrait of Monsieur Suisse").
San Francisco. Palace of Fine Arts. "Golden Gate International Exposition," May 25–September 29, 1940, no. 254 (as "Portrait of M. Suisse").
Newark Museum. "19th-Century French and American Paintings from the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art," April 9–May 15, 1946, no. 5 (as "M. Suisse").
Palm Beach. Society of the Four Arts. "Portraits, Figures and Landscapes," January 12–February 4, 1951, no. 10.
Nashville. Fisk University. "[title not known]," April 20–August 15, 1951, no catalogue.
Atlanta University. "[title not known]," September 1, 1951–January 30, 1952, no catalogue.
New Orleans. Dillard University. "[title not known]," February 1–April 30, 1952, no catalogue.
Winnipeg Art Gallery. "French Pre-Impressionist Painters of the Nineteenth Century," April 10–May 9, 1954, no. 51 (as "Monsieur Suisse").
Naples. Museo di Capodimonte. "Capolavori Impressionisti dei Musei Americani," December 3, 1986–February 1, 1987, no. 13.
Milan. Pinacoteca di Brera. "Capolavori Impressionisti dei Musei Americani," March 4–May 10, 1987, no. 13.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Splendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection," March 27–June 20, 1993, no. A132 (as "M. Suisse").
[E.] Gros-Kost. Courbet: souvenirs intimes. Paris, 1880, p. 182, describes the art collection of Félix Courbet, chief attendant at the Musée du Luxembourg, Paris, which included two portraits "de large facture" by Courbet: the present picture and a likeness of M. Chardignier.
Paul Eudel. L'Hotel Drouot et la curiosité en 1882. 2nd ed.?. Paris, 1885, p. 533, lists this painting among four sold from the collection of Félix Courbet, and notes the sale price.
Alexandre Estignard. Courbet: sa vie, ses oeuvres. Besançon, 1896, p. 165, as in the collection of Félix Courbet; dates it 1867.
Georges Riat. Gustave Courbet peintre. Paris, 1906, pp. 28–29, 253, dates it 1861 and lists it in the collection of Brivet; describes the studio of Suisse, where Courbet studied live models.
Charles Léger. Courbet. Paris, 1929, pl. 25.
H. O. Havemeyer Collection: Catalogue of Paintings, Prints, Sculpture and Objects of Art. n.p., 1931, pp. 98–99, ill., calls it "Portrait of M. Suisse" and dates it about 1861.
Gerstle Mack. Gustave Courbet. New York, 1951, p. 27.
Louisine W. Havemeyer. Sixteen to Sixty: Memoirs of a Collector. New York, 1961, p. 199.
Charles Sterling and Margaretta M. Salinger. French Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 2, XIX Century. New York, 1966, p. 119, ill., mention another portrait of Suisse which belonged to the painter Margottet (Bénatov collection, Paris), noting that the MMA picture was probably the first version.
Robert Fernier. La vie et l'oeuvre de Gustave Courbet. Vol. 1, Peintures, 1819–1865. Lausanne, 1977, p. 176, no. 295, ill. p. 177, calls it "Portrait de M. Suisse" and dates it 1861.
Robert Fernier. La vie et l'oeuvre de Gustave Courbet. Vol. 2, Peintures, 1866–1877. Lausanne, 1978, p. 240, under no. 2, calls the version in the Bénatov collection a replica of ours.
Pierre Courthion. L'opera completa di Courbet. Milan, 1985, p. 88, no. 277, ill. p. 89.
Gary Tinterow et al. Capolavori impressionisti dei musei americani. Exh. cat., Museo di Capodimonte, Naples. Milan, 1987, p. 36, no. 13, ill. p. 37 (color).
Louisine W. Havemeyer. Sixteen to Sixty: Memoirs of a Collector. Ed. Susan Alyson Stein. 3rd ed. [1st ed. 1930, repr. 1961]. New York, 1993, pp. 199, 331 n. 285.
Gretchen Wold inSplendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, p. 314, no. A132, ill. p. 313.
There is a replica of this portrait in which the sitter appears without glasses (Bénatov collection, Paris), which Fernier (1978) dates about 1871.