A “house for use by a ploughman”
This is how the farm was described in the death certificate of the painter’s paternal grandfather. Gustave’s younger sister, Juliette, inherited the farm on the death of their father, Régis, and sold in in 1910 to the Bourgon family. They were tenant farmers* who worked for Gustave Courbet’s father; they lived in the house until they sold it to the “community of communes”, which then sold it on for the symbolic sum of 1 euro to the Doubs Department Council in 2008 with the aim of restoring and developing it as part of the “Pays de Courbet, Pays d’artiste” project.
A floral kitchen garden
The farm is at the junction between the high street and Rue des Carts, in this village of less than 200 inhabitants, 15 minutes from Ornans. It has a walled garden adjoining the house, which once served as the kitchen garden. It is said in Flagey that it had flowers all year round that were used to brighten up the whole village. The property extends beyond the wall into meadows.
Two families lived there
The living accommodation was taken up by the Bourgon family on the ground floor and the Courbet family upstairs. This explains why there are two kitchens and a large number of bedrooms in the living accommodation. The 1910 deed of sale describes “a house comprising two kitchens, four bedrooms on the ground floor, four bedrooms upstairs, an attic, two stables, a barn and livestock accommodation. Together with an outhouse, water tank, garden, orchard, ploughed land, toilets and outbuildings, all in one piece, covering an area of 83 ares 70 centiares”.
All sorts of animals
Like all the farms in Franche-Comté, the building was divided into living accommodation on one side and stables on the other. People therefore lived under the same roof as the animals. The Courbet family owned all sorts of animals, as can be seen in the painting The farmers of Flagey returning from the fair (between 1850 and 1855, Besançon Museum of Fine Art and Archaeology).
Self-sufficiency in winter
Travel was difficult in the 19th Century, especially in winter. Most of the villagers often lived self-sufficient lives and the farms had everything that was needed to feed a family without having to travel. For example, the Courbet farm had a bread oven, an oil press and even a wash-house in the garden. The oven was used up until the 1950s. Gustave Courbet’s letters tell us that his father, Régis, also had all the equipment required to make wine at his other property in Valbois, and in the other house belonging to the Oudot family, Gustave Courbet’s mother’s family, in Place des Iles-Basses, now Place Courbet, in Ornans.
The evening vigil
Winter was also conducive to the traditional evening vigil around the fireplace. It usually began with supper and sometimes continued in the homes of friends. Courbet immortalised this special moment in the day in his painting After dinner in Ornans (1850, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Lille), in which he portrayed his father and his friends Promayet, Cuenot and Toubin, sitting in front of a fire, drinking and enjoying some music.
*The tenant farmers farmed the land in exchange for part of the harvest.
Courbet’s correspondence with his father (1840)
I’m pleased that you have bought
You tell me that you own all the land in Flagey.
Courbet’s correspondence with his parents
My father did the right thing
to sell all the horses,
he’s well rid of them.
There’s not much news
You can tell me about the hens, the hind…