Although not exceedingly well-known
today, Théodore Rousseau (1812
- 1867) was, with his life-long friend Jean-François Millet,
founding figure of the so-called Barbizon school, named for a small
village in the Fontainebleau forest, south of Paris.
After being excluded from the academic Salon de Paris between 1836 and 1841*, he permanently took up residence there in the late 1840s, and inspired by Corot, devoted himself to working out of doors. He was officially recognized rather later on**, and the plein-airists are now considered to be essential precursors of Impressionism.
Although Rousseau produced few
prints, they are quite representative of his innovative artistic
vision, moving beyond the Romantic predilections of the time.
Chênes de Roche
Delteil 4 II/III; Melot 4.2
etching, 1861, the
rare second state (prior to the publication of the third state in the Gazette des Beaux-Arts), a very
fine impression on laid paper with very wide margins
This scene depicting a hillside grove in the Fontainebleau forest is considered to be Rousseau's masterpiece.
* During the Monarchie de Juillet, under Louis-Philippe, the Salon de Paris evolved rather tumultuously. In 1839, Honoré de Balzac deplored what the Salon had become:
« Depuis 1830, le Salon n'existe plus. [...] Tout fut perdu lorsqu'il se continua dans la galerie. Le Salon aurait dû rester un lieu déterminé, restreint, de proportions inflexibles, où chaque genre eût exposé ses chefs-d'œuvre. Une expérience de dix ans a prouvé la bonté de l'ancienne institution. Au lieu d'un tournoi, vous avez une émeute ; au lieu d'une Exposition glorieuse, vous avez un tumultueux bazar ; au lieu d'un choix, vous avez la totalité. Qu'arrive-t-il ? Le grand artiste s'y perd... ».
["Since 1830, the Salon no longer exists. [...] All was lost when it continued in the gallery. The Salon ought to have remained a determined and restricted place of inflexible proportions, in which each genre exhibited its masterpieces. An experience of ten years has proved the goodness of the old institution. Instead of a tournament, you have a riot; instead of a glorious Exhibition, you have a tumultuous bazaar; instead of a choice, you have the totality. What is happening? The great artist gets lost..."]
** Rousseau was again accepted at the Salon de 1849, where he received a medal, he became a member of the jury the following year... and was finally awarded the Légion d'Honneur in 1852.