Musée d'Orsay: Théodore Rousseau Road in the Forest

Théodore Rousseau
Road in the Forest

Road in the Forest of Fontainebleau, Storm Effect
Théodore Rousseau (1812-1867)
Road in the Forest of Fontainebleau, Storm Effect
Between 1860 and 1865
Oil on canvas
H. 30; W. 51 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

Route dans la forêt de Fontainebleau, effet d'orage [Road in the Forest of Fontainebleau, Storm Effect]

Theodore Rousseau received his training from the Neo-Classical painter Jean-Charles Rémond and from his sessions at the Louvre, where he mainly copied the 17th century landscape painters, Claude Lorrain, Hobbema and Ruysdael.
In 1847, Rousseau moved to Barbizon, on the edge of the forest of Fontainebleau. Although he continued to have his works refused at the Salon, he was by then very well known, appreciated and admired by the painters themselves. Official recognition came in 1848, with the commission of a major work, The Edge of the Forest at Fontainebleau, sunset (Paris, musée du Louvre). In spite of his new-found fame, Rousseau remained in Barbizon, rarely leaving the village. "A man of the forests" as he liked to call himself, who painted only landscapes, he could not live for long away from his area of study.

In this painting, it was the edge of the forest during a storm that caught Rousseau's attention. At the far end of a dark expanse of overgrown scrub, crossed by a track, a clump of bare trees can be seen. The red tones of autumn stand out against a stormy sky, which changes from leaden grey to yellow and bright blue. There is movement and vibration everywhere in this wind-swept landscape. The vigorous brushwork breaks up the colour into tiny dabs, a technique the painter had started to adopt, and somewhat similar to early Impressionism. But by dramatising this storm as it is about to break, Rousseau is also making references to Romanticism.

Enlarge font size Reduce font size Print