Diaz discovered Barbizon in 1837, and was enchanted by it. He very soon moved there and met up with his friends Jules Dupré, Théodore Rousseau, Constant Troyon and Camille Corot. For all these painters, known collectively as the Barbizon school, the forest of Fontainebleau was a real life-sized studio.
Trees, a path, a cloudy sky, a small human figure, barely visible… This vision of the forest is one of a pure landscape, simple and true, where Naturalist and Romantic traditions meet. This painting is Naturalist in its simplicity, and in the absence of any anecdote or story. But the trees with their bare, twisted branches lining the path, set against a lowering sky, give the painting a Romantic atmosphere. The animated brush strokes, side by side, overlapping or blended, (Baudelaire used to call it "papillotage" - a flickering effect) accentuate this Romantic flavour by revealing the complexity of a vibrant, living, chaotic, natural world.
"His art is not nature at all", said the critic Théophile Thoré [...]. "It is the poetry of dreams; it is the evocation of a supernatural world".