Plein air. From Corot to Monet: Exploring the French landscape

As industry and urbanisation in France became increasingly widespread, the desire among artists to immerse themselves in the landscape and find refuge there grew. Moreover, the overly codified landscapes of Italy became commonplace in the 1830s, and the most innovative artists turned to new sources of inspiration, in particular Dutch painting.

Landscape Against a Backdrop of Hills, de Georges MichelMusée des impressionnismes Giverny

Georges Michel, nicknamed the "French Ruysdael" in reference to the Dutch landscape painter Jacob van Ruysdael, is often cited as a forerunner of this shift. Rome's countryside did not appeal to him. He drew his inspiration from Paris and its surroundings: Saint-Denis, Montmartre, Clichy, Fontainebleau and Barbizon.
During his walks, he produced a significant number of oil studies on large sheets of grey paper.

The composition of this work follows a series of horizontal bands: beyond the shrubs in the foreground, the view opens up onto the vast sunny plain and the cloud formations of the restless sky…

...then onto the hills of the dark background.

This account by his widow was reported in 1873 by one of his first biographers, Alfred Sensier: "Passionate about nature, Michel could do nothing but work directly from it; his studio was everywhere, except at home, where he only returned to rest."

Farmer in the Fontainebleau Forest (1830/1832), de Camille CorotMusée des impressionnismes Giverny

From 1822 onwards, before his first stay in Italy, Camille Corot painted in the Fontainebleau forest. He often returned there later to work from nature.

Here, he sets out to convey the powerful volumes of the famous rocks, which contrast with the airy silhouette of an oak tree.

Depicted with a grey and ochre palette, the female figure integrates naturally into the landscape while providing a sense of scale.

As you can see from this Street View image, the Fontainebleau forest still offers walkers today a unique spectacle of rampant nature where – as it does here – the undergrowth covers the rocks and twisted trees tower over winding paths.

A City Suburb (Rochefort-sur-Mer, Charente) (1851), de Camille CorotMusée des impressionnismes Giverny

On his return from Italy, Corot did not give up painting from life and travelled through the regions of France in search of new subjects.

His studies, which retained the decisiveness and frankness acquired during his stay in Rome, were highly sought after. However, the artist continued to paint more ambitious compositions, intended to be exhibited at the Salon, in his studio.

The Boat Studio, from series Voyage en Bateau, 1862 (1861), de Charles-François DaubignyThe Metropolitan Museum of Art

In 1835, Charles François Daubigny joined the studio of the academic painter Pierre Asthasie Théodore Senties. The following year, he financed his trip to Italy. However, it was his first stay in the Fontainebleau forest in 1843 that radically changed his art. He subsequently drew his inspiration from the banks of the Seine and the Oise. From that point on, Daubigny favoured natural observation, with a marked preference for the most fluid features of the landscape, such as lakes and rivers.

In November 1857, Daubigny fitted out a modest craft as a studio boat, just as Claude Monet did later. Aboard the "Botin", he confirmed his commitment to studying nature by getting as close as possible to the subject.

Calling to Shore (1861), de Charles-François DaubignyThe Metropolitan Museum of Art

In 1866, Frédéric Henriet humorously described his expeditions on the Seine and the Oise in "Le Paysagiste aux champs. Croquis d'après nature": "The river has its days of anger; sometimes the storm hits the deck of the fragile skiff: the crew capsizes; brushes, studies and palettes are thrown adrift, and a general rescue must be carried out."

Les Paysagistes. Le premier copie la nature... (1865), de Honoré DaumierLos Angeles County Museum of Art

A painter and sculptor but also a designer, Honoré Daumier made a name for himself at the start of his career through his character sketches published in "La Caricature". Starting at the end of the 1840s, in the magazine "Le Charivari", he made fun of the fashion for painting outdoors.
He mocked the landscape painters' subject matter, often raising questions of originality and imagination: "These artists are almost all crazy...I swear it! … Here's one who has the idea of painting a portrait of an old tree", and "Landscapists. The first copies nature, the second copies the first".

The Artists in the Fontainebleau Forest, de Jules Louis Philippe CoignetMusée des impressionnismes Giverny

From the 1830s onwards, painters gradually took over the Fontainebleau forest, which became a huge open-air studio: so much so that in 1863, Jules-Antoine Castagnary described "the great army of landscapists" who covered the walls of the Salon.

Advances in equipment had by that point simplified their work. Invented in 1840, paint tubes gradually replaced the traditional pig's bladder. Materials became lighter, as did easels. During the day, artists painted studies from nature, which they then completed in the studio in the evening and often mounted on canvas thereafter.
Gradually, working directly from the subject ceased to be a mere stage in the creative process, and many artists exhibited studies at the Salon which they presented as works in their own right.

Wave, seascape (1869), de Gustave CourbetMusée des impressionnismes Giverny

In 1869, Gustave Courbet, master of realism, painted a series of canvases in Étretat devoted to depicting a wave.

He thus took on an impossible challenge. How to portray a wave, and in stormy weather to boot? How to focus at once on the drifting of the clouds accumulating in the sky and on this moving liquid mass? Although the first impression could be captured on the spot, here the artist came up against the limits of plein air painting.

The Wave (c. 1871-1873), de Gustave CourbetMusée des impressionnismes Giverny

Guy de Maupassant described the artist painting in the shelter of a hut whose windows were spattered by the elements: “From time to time, he would press his face up against the glass and watch the storm…

... The sea thrashed so close by that it seemed to batter the house itself, enveloped in foam and noise. Saltwater hit the windowpanes like hail and trickled down the walls." (Guy de Maupassant, "La Vie d'un paysagiste", Gil Blas, 28 September 1886)

Créditos: história

The exhibition "Plein air. From Corot to Monet", curated by Marina Ferretti, Specialist in the Impressionist and post-Impressionist period, assisted by Vanessa Lecomte, Associate Curator at the musée des impressionnismes Giverny, was originally scheduled for 27 March to 28 June 2020 at the museum, but had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Hervé Boesch, Frédérique Bourdeau, Jean-Gabriel de Bueil, Luc Camino, Mariska De Jonge, Ger Luijten, Maria Maddalena Marin, Stanislas Ract-Madoux, Alice-Anne Tod, Alice Tourneroche.

We invite you to explore the work published for the event by the musée des impressionnismes Giverny in conjunction with Éditions Gallimard, Paris.

Créditos: todas as mídias
Em alguns casos, é possível que a história em destaque tenha sido criada por terceiros independentes. Portanto, ela pode não representar as visões das instituições, listadas abaixo, que forneceram o conteúdo.
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