Born into a wealthy farmer's family, Courbet began his training in 1831 at the Petit Séminaire in Ornans where, beginning in 1833, he studied under "le père Baud," who had been a pupil of Gros (q.v.). He was befriended by poet Max Buchon, who would later write the first article on Courbet, claiming that he was the artist for the people. In 1837, hoping that Gustave would become a lawyer, his father sent him to the Collège Royal in Besançon. Despite his father's ambitions, Courbet began to study art at the academy there with Charles-Antoine Flageoulot (1774-1840), a former student of David (q.v.). By 1839 Courbet had moved to Paris to pursue a career in art. He refrained from entering the École des Beaux-Arts, studying instead briefly with Charles de Steuben (1788-1856) and preferring to learn how to paint by copying the works of the Old Masters in the museums. Courbet also wanted to work after life models and enrolled at the Académie Suisse. He began to submit paintings to the Salon, the majority of which were rejected. In 1846-47 Courbet traveled to the Netherlands where he studied the works of Rembrandt and Hals. The following year ten of his paintings were shown at the Salon, and together with his friends Baudelaire, Champfleury, and Buchon he became labeled a "realist." Courbet's paintings shown at the 1851 Salon-Stonebreakers (1849, formerly Dresden Gemäldegalerie, destroyed during World War II), Peasants of Flagey (1850-55, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Besançon), and The Burial at Ornans (1849-50, Musée d'Orsay, Paris)-elicited criticism. Because Courbet represented the peasants as he saw them, without ennobling or idealizing them, his works met with disapproval. Moreover, these representations of peasants appeared at a time when the upper classes felt threatened by social unrest and by the instability of the republic. In 1855 Courbet financed an independent Pavillon du Réalisme near the Universal Exposition, where he showed his Painter's Studio (1854-55, Musée d'Orsay, Paris). He began to travel extensively, including visits to Gent, Brussels, Antwerp, Bruges, Cologne, Mainz, and Strasbourg. He returned to Germany in 1858, and while in Frankfurt, he began to paint the stag hunts he witnessed. The following year he visited the Normandy coast, painting seascapes, some of which became almost abstractions. Courbet turned to still lifes in 1862-63 when visiting the Saintonge area, yet he still continued to create landscapes and portraits. By 1870 he was offered the Legion of Honor but refused it because of his opposition to the imperial government. During the Paris Commune from March to May 1871, Courbet became an active member of the government. As chairman of the Commission for the Protection of the Artistic Monuments of Paris, he suggested the Vendôme Column be dismantled because it was an imperial symbol. The Commune decided instead to topple the column. When the Commune was defeated, Courbet was held responsible for this act of vandalism and was jailed for six months. In 1873 the government decided to rebuild the column at Courbet's expense. Unable to pay and fearful of being arrested, Courbet moved to Switzerland, where he spent the rest of his life in exile.