The Man Made Mad by Fear (1843/44), by Gustave Courbet.
(There’s probably no label which has been more simplified and twisted other than that of realism. No one likes the sound of realism, not in this contemporary world anyway. And it is unfortunate that a great master like Courbet must carry the weight of this plain and often misunderstood name tag on his shoulders. Isn’t it time to put away those labels and little tags on the walls of a museum, and to really see with our own eyes?)
The man made mad by fear, as simple as that. Again, madness with a hand in his hair, with the same face from The Desperate Man. But now, the other hand is reaching forward, not to grab, not to hit or shake hand, but rather to touch the limit of his own madness. To examine and taste his invisible illusions with shaky fingertips.
But what is happening in the background? The sky too blue, grass too green, and the mad man has a big red cape (Whose illusion is this now?). The brushstrokes in the foreground are pure abstract. They were scrubbed into a cloud of chaos and grey matters.
Something is eating away the painting, slowly swallowing the man up, along with his surrounding; a fog rising up from the lower right corner, and will soon spread through the whole canvas. But he’s not afraid anymore, he hasn’t turned away. Instead, he charges right into the whirl of madness, emptiness, and chaos.
Was he made mad by fear? Or is he simply trying to embrace this madness?