Master paintings

How to nail the selfie?

Gustave Courbet’s (1819 – 1877) selfie was part of his marketing strategy. What can we learn from this artist?  

French artist Gustave Courbet called himself ‘the most arrogant man in France’. In his days, famous artists showed their works at art salons, organized by the Academy of Fine Arts in Paris.

However, Courbet’s work was not to their taste. The Academy refused Courbet’s paintings. This made it harder to contact optional buyers.

Courbet found a workaround. He went to the newspapers and declared that he was painting with the intention of being rejected.

1. Make your selfie look appealing

Courbet’s selfie makes you think. He called the painting ‘The Desperate Man’, and although his face shows the obvious traits of despair, we get a clue that this is no real desperation. The man is just too attractive. His desperation is a beautiful performance.

2. There is no such thing as bad publicity

In matters of taste, there is no such thing as bad publicity. Courbet’s aim was to gain attention. He befriended journalists and encouraged newspapers to publish cartoon portraits of him.

3. Focus on your goal

Finally, don’t seek attention for attention’s sake. In the end, it’s not about the likes. What do you want to accomplish? Courbet was using a smart marketing strategy. He caused a scandal with some provocative paintings with the intention of selling less outspoken pieces to the public.

Best practice

Here are some of my favorite selfies:

  • #Not in my name. ISIS does not represent British Muslims. British Muslims take selfies to show that ISIS is not representative of the Islam.
  • ArtHo or ArtHoe collective: about the representation of people of color in art. The movement started with young artists making selfies in front of old master paintings. Now they are sharing their work on several social platforms.
  • Dove Real Beauty Campaign. Dove embraces the selfie in another Dove Real Beauty Campaign.

Gustave Courbet
The Desperate Man
Oil on canvas, 45 x 55 cm
Private collection

This post was originally published on my blog about old master paintings and design: