In the 1860s Courbet began to push the bounds of acceptable taste in other ways:
But being provocative by nature, the artist once again caused an uproar with Return from the Conference (1863, now lost, probably bought by an indignant person with the aim of destroying it), showing drunken priests in merry conversation on a country road. The painting was refused at the 1863 Salon "as an outrage on religious morality" and he was forbidden to exhibit it even in the Salon des Refusés!(The Salon des Refusés was organized by avant garde painters whose works had been refused by the official salon.)
says of this,
Here, the artist offers an intense vision of the stormy sea, tormented and disturbing, with all the savage power of natural forces at work. "His tide comes from the depth of ages," Paul Cézanne would later comment. Applying thick paint with a kitchen knife, Courbet succeeded in conveying an impression of eternity.In 1870-71 Courbet got himself into real trouble by his actions during the Paris Commune. When Prussia defeated France in the creatively named Franco-Prussian War, the French government surrendered Paris to the invaders. But the people of Paris were not done fighting; they proclaimed a "commune" (the medieval name for an independent town) and refused to admit the Prussians. Since the wealthy had already fled, this was a government of working people and their radical allies, and remembering it and honoring its heroes later became a cult among leftists in Europe. Courbet served in the commune's government, and one of his contributions was to agitate for the destruction of Paris's monuments to Napoleon. In the end the communards were crushed, and the most radical leaders were imprisoned or deported to South America. Courbet was jailed when the city fell and then forced to pay the costs of rebuilding one of those Napoleonic monuments, the Vendôme column. The 320,000 Franc bill bankrupted Courbet, and he moved to Switzerland, fearing further prosecutions.