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The Barbizon School

France, 1830 - 1870

The Barbizon School was a group of naturalist landscape painters working in the area of the Barbizon village , south of Paris. The group lead by Theodore Rousseau rejected the classical landscape style, Academic tradition and theory ; they declared their return to nature', naturalism in art . The Barbizon School is a part of the French Realist movement.

Theodore Rousseau (French, 1812-1867) is the best-known member and the founder of the group. Other prominent members included Constant Troyon and Charles-Francois Daubigny , who was the first of the plein air painters. Realist painters Jean-Francois Millet and Camille Corot are also associated with this school.

Their approach constituted an art movement , which eventually led to both Realism and Impressionism . The Barbizon School artists aimed to paint fresh, realistic scenes, sketching and painting their subjects in the open air. The Barbizon School artists are often considered to have sown the seeds of Modernism with their individualism, and were the forerunners of the Impressionists , who took a similar philosophical approach to their art.

They were devoted to depicting the working class in their paintings, showing the lives of farmers, gravediggers, woodsmen, poachers, and other workers. Their paintings glorified the hard work and lives of their subjects. Some artists chose the subject for social and political reasons, while other simply admired the beauty of their subject. Most Barbizon School painters were rejected from the Paris Salons of their time and therefore were revolting against industrial society in their work. Courbet wished to fight for social justice. However, Millet did not wish to stir revolution but was mainly interested in the land and those who live in the countryside.

The attitude of the painters seems to have been influenced by John Constable and other English landscapists, though Rousseau, a leader of the group, was strongly influenced by the Dutch. Rousseau, Diaz de la Pena, Jules Dupre, and Daubigny formed the nucleus of the school, and Camille Corot and Millet became associated with them, though Barbizon represents only a part of Corot's career, and Millet is distinct from the rest in the emotional significance he sought to attach to the life of the peasant. Among other Barbizon painters were Constant Troyon, Henri Harpignies, Antoine Chintreuil, and Charles Emile Jacque.

Corot, Jean-Baptiste-Camille - 1796 - 1875
Daubigny, Charles-Francois - 1817 - 1878
Diaz de la Pena, Narcisse-Virgile - 1807 - 1876
Harpignies, Henri-Joseph - 1819 - 1916
Millet, Jean-Francois - 1814 - 1875
Rousseau, Theodore - 1812 - 1867
Spitzweg, Carl - 1808 - 1885
Troyon, Constant - 1810 - 1865
Camille Flers  1802-1868 

Jules Dupre  1811-1889 

Charles Emile Jacque  1813-1894 French Painter 

Leon-Victor Dupre  1816-1879 

Antonio Fontanesi  1818-1882 

William Morris Hunt  1824-1879 American Painter 

Jules Jacques Veyrassat  1828-1893 French Painter 

Paul Desire Trouillebert  1829-1900 French Painter
Homer Dodge Martin  1836-1897 American Painter 

Alexis Jean Fournier  1865-1948 American Painter

Theodore Rousseau - Great French Painter, the 'Naturalist' Style
By Annette Labedzki

Pierre Etienne Theodore Rousseau or simply Theodore Rousseau was a famous 'Naturalist' French painter of 'Barbizon School,' who portrayed landscapes on the canvas with magical ease. Born on April 15, 1812, in Paris, to an upper class, bourgeois family, some of his siblings were also accomplished artists.

Enrolling initially in a business school, his forceful inclination and prolific talent in the field of art convinced him to pursue it as his profession. In 1831 and 1834, Theodore presented two of his art works for the prestigious biannual art exhibition, Paris Salon. Not much appreciated by the Salon authorities, his competent work, "La descente des vaches," was rejected in 1836, and was later called the 'great rejected one.' Unfazed, Theodore Rousseau was impeccably perseverant, and his art matured that fetched him admiration from his contemporary artists. All the while, when the Salon authorities were busy banishing him, the adept artist was producing his masterpieces, such as "The Chestnut Avenue (1837)," "The Marsh in the Lands," and "Hoar-Frost." In 1851, Salon accepted his work, "The Edge of the Forest," which art critics, fellow artists, and the Salon authorities, appreciated alike.

In 1848, Theodore Rousseau moved to a forest village of Barbizon, due to his passion for capturing landscapes on canvass. His brilliant paintings carried meticulous details, elaborated with subtle melancholy and bold brush strokes. His growing popularity was largely attributed to his fellow artists, who regarded him as an innovator of 'Impressionism in the Naturalist' style. The year 1853 proved overwhelming for Theodore's career, when all his rejected paintings were collected and exhibited together at the exhibition of Exposition Universelle. Hereafter, Rousseau's popularity scaled new heights.

Though, the artist's later years were quite traumatic and distressing, he continued painting color and character rich landscapes, until his last breath. For reasons unknown, his wife turned insane, his father regularly sought monetary help from him, he had little patrons left, he was surpassed accolades, and one of his friends, living in the forest village, committed suicide. This emotional upheaval culminated to paralysis for Theodore Rousseau, eventually claiming his life on December 22, 1867. Theodore's works grace several art galleries, such as Louvre, the Wallace collection, Victoria, and Albert Museum. His watercolor paintings and sketches continue to enthrall art lovers and college students. He was also made Chevalier of the Legion of Honor in 1851, due to his ingenious ability of painting in the 'Naturalist' style.

Annette Labedzki received her BFA at the Emily Carr College of Art and Design in Vancouver, B.C. Canada. She has more than 25 years experience. She is the founder and developer of An online art gallery featuring her original art.

It is a great site for art collectors to buy original art. Please visit the website at

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