Musée d'Orsay: Gustave Le Gray Undergrowth at Bas-Bréau

Gustave Le Gray
Undergrowth at Bas-Bréau

Forest of Fontainebleau, undergrowth at Bas-Bréau
Gustave Le Gray (1820-1884)
Forest of Fontainebleau, undergrowth at Bas-Bréau
Albumen print from a waxed paper negative
H. 25.9; W. 36.8 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / DR

Forêt de Fontainebleau, sous-bois au Bas-Bréau [Forest of Fontainebleau, undergrowth at Bas-Bréau]

After taking part, in the summer of 1851, in the Heliographic Mission - a commission from the committee for historic monuments to photograph the most noteworthy monuments in France - Gustave Le Gray produced, in 1852 and again in 1855-1857, two very accomplished collections of photographs of the Forest of Fontainebleau.
During his walks around Bas-Bréau, the photographer would place his camera right in the middle of the path, at the exact place where he had been struck by the light shimmering through the foliage.

With his customary precision, Le Gray used the line of the path, in this rich composition, to draw the eye towards the clearing where the tree trunks are bathed in light. In this way he produced the image of a site that was very popular with painters, resulting in an inevitable comparison with the works of Théodore Rousseau, the master of Barbizon, whom he most resembles in his sensitivity. The photographer never yields to the temptation of the picturesque. No human or animal presence disturbs the spectacle of this simple but majestic, natural scene.

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