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Forest in Boisrémond (recto); Cottage in a Forest (verso)

Théodore Rousseau1842

The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum
Los Angeles, United States

Théodore Rousseau thought of trees as almost human. He called his drawings of trees "portraits" and the trees themselves "beings." His rendering of a pathway winding through an old forest demonstrates this affinity for natural entities. Zigzags of chalk and a line of trees give the hillside a rugged character, defining a downhill slope from the left side of the drawing to the lower right corner. There, Rousseau incorporated a serpentine creek with curved lines along the right side, leading to a distant, small town with a church. At the far left of the drawing, a person stands on the pathway, providing a sense of scale and distance.

The artists of the Barbizon School were among the first to paint and draw en plein air, taking their tools outdoors to create their works of art, rather than inventing a scene from memory in a studio. In keeping with the Barbizon School's techniques, Rousseau captured the essence of the trees, giving them body and form, but rendered details such as leaves minimally with short strokes of chalk. The one gnarled, old tree at left that receives special attention becomes the focus of the image.

On the verso, Rousseau used graphite to sketch trees surrounding a cottage. As in the recto, the trees are drawn with few particulars, emphasizing their shape over other details.

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