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Théodore Rousseau was a central figure in the group of artists working in France in the mid nineteenth century who were associated with the village of Barbizon in the forest of Fontainebleau, near Paris. The artists who constituted what came to be known as the Barbizon school shared a love of painting directly from nature. Their interest in landscape painting for its own sake was a relatively recent development in French art and was to some degree a result of the influence of John Constable and other earlier English landscapists.

Although he settled permanently at Barbizon in 1848, Rousseau also travelled extensively in the French provinces and Landscape with a clump of trees was probably painted during his time in the Berry and Landes regions in central and southwest France. This painting is characteristic of the objective naturalism that governed the artist’s approach to landscape in the 1840s. Here is nature at her most serene, benign and accessible. Occupying two-thirds of the composition, the clear and spacious expanse of sky that joins the earth at the distant horizon line confirms the painting’s overall sense that the natural world is tranquil, harmonious and enduring.

The work of Rousseau and the Barbizon school became associated with a specifically nineteenth-century ideal of the relationship between man and nature, an ideal that provided an antidote to the often sordid reality of contemporary urban life. It has been argued that the modern naturalistic landscape, epitomized by paintings like Landscape with a clump of trees, in fact came into being as a counter to the advances of industrialization.

Text by Rose Stone from 19th century painting and sculpture in the international collections of the National Gallery of Victoria, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2003, p. 44.

Details

  • Title: Landscape with a clump of trees
  • Creator: Théodore Rousseau
  • Date Created: (c. 1844)
  • Physical Dimensions: 41.6 x 63.8 cm (Unframed)
  • Type: Paintings
  • Rights: National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Felton Bequest, 1955, © National Gallery of Victoria
  • External Link: National Gallery of Victoria
  • Medium: oil on wood panel
  • Provenance: With William Schaus (1821–92) (dealer), New York, sold 1881; from whom purchased by Theron R. Butler (d. 1884); thence by descent to estate (and daughter Ella Sanders); subsequently included in Theron R. Butler estate sale, New York, January 7, 1910, bought by Knoedler Galleries, New York; exhibited Paris, May 1910 Exposition 100 Chefs d’oeuvre, owner Knoedler Galleries; collection of Cornelius Kingsley Garrison Billings (1861–37) c. 1910–1926; included in Billings’ sale, Famous Masterpieces of the French Dutch and English Schools the Collection of C. K. G. Billings Esq. from Fort Tryon Hall, American Art Association, New York, 8 January, 1926; collection of Eli B. Springs (d. 1934) 1926–34, New York and Charleston; Springs’ estate sale, Anderson Galleries, New York, 23 November, 1934; bought by the John Levy Galleries; collection of A. Levinson; exhibited Barbizon School, Hazlitt Gallery, London, May 1955; from where acquired for the Felton Bequest, 1955.
  • Non-English title: Bosquet d'arbres

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