JOHANNABURTON: After Courbet from 2010 is made up of 18 postcards.
NARRATOR: They present a painting by Gustave Courbet from 1866, which he called Origin of the World. Johanna Burton.
JOHANNABURTON: In the image, of course, you see the genitals, stomach, and breasts of an anonymous woman, a framing of the nude body that truncates and pretty much just shows these particular elements.
NARRATOR: In a move utilized by other nineteenth- and twentieth-century modernists, Courbet played with the idea that artist’s creativity was a life-giving power rivaling female sexual reproduction. In this image he both presented the female body as an erotic object and as an explicit metaphor.
JOHANNABURTON: Of course, the notion of the origin, both in terms of authorship, but also in terms of biological imperatives for reproduction, are interesting when one thinks about Levine’s own place as a woman artist in relationship to this image. She both sort of renders this idea of reproduction and originality moot, but also seems to multiply its implications.