The French Barbizon School of Painters was a reaction against the Renaissance art which sought to idealize the classical form. The Barbizon Painters looked to nature, rather than to the classical ideal, as a source of inspiration–in much the same way as described of the scientist by Poincaré.

“The scientist does not study nature because it is useful to do so. He studies it because he takes pleasure in it, and he takes pleasure in it because it is beautiful. If nature were not beautiful it would not be worth knowing, and life would not be worth living. I am not speaking, of course, of the beauty which strikes the senses, of the beauty of qualities and appearances. I am far from despising this, but it has nothing to do with science. What I mean is that more intimate beauty which comes from the harmonious order of its parts, and which a pure intelligence can grasp.”
― Henri Poincaré, Science and Method

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George Inness – Autumn Oaks

After the emergence of the Barbizon School in France, an American Barbizon School formed. One of its members was George Inness.

Albert Bierstadt – The Hudson River School of Painting

The Hudson River School also followed the French Barbizon school of painters.

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John Francis Murphy – Autumn – Tonalist

The Tonalists followed the Barbizon painters and the Hudson River Painters, and they continued to focus on nature, as they began to seek a deeper spiritual truth or peace or harmony through their affiinities with and  paintings of nature. All of these painters were Romantic in nature.

In many ways, I am a Romanticist. I wrote my first master’s thesis about William Blake, who was a forefather of the Romantic period of English Literature, which began about 250 years ago, but my art has always been modern, bright, and colorful. Until recently, I have not been highly impressed with landscape painters–especially with people who want nothing more than a slavish representation of reality in painting. I prefer a camera for that purpose. I did not begin to fully appreciate landscape painting until I became familiar with the Hudson River Painters. I discovered them after I moved from the South to the Northeast.

Durand – The Catskills – Hudson River Painter

Even as a child, I found nature to be my greatest source of inspiration. I often write about the ways that my summers at camp influenced my chidhood. It is in nature that I find personal peace and harmony, and I enjoy learning more about artists who have endeavored to recreate that natural harmony through painting. Today, I have been trying to research where this artistic tradition began, and it seems that we can thank the French Barbizon painters for leading the way.

©Jacki Kellum July 23, 2017

“The Barbizon school of painters were part of an art movement towards Realism in art, which arose in the context of the dominant Romantic Movement of the time. The Barbizon school was active roughly from 1830 through 1870. It takes its name from the village of Barbizon, France, near the Forest of Fontainebleau, where many of the artists gathered. Some of the most prominent features of this school are its tonal qualities, color, loose brushwork, and softness of form.[1]” Wikipedia

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John Constable – Wivenhoe Park – 1816

“In 1824 the Salon de Paris exhibited works of John Constable, an English painter. His rural scenes influenced some of the younger artists of the time, moving them to abandon formalism and to draw inspiration directly from nature. Natural scenes became the subjects of their paintings rather than mere backdrops to dramatic events. During the Revolutions of 1848 artists gathered at Barbizon to follow Constable’s ideas, making nature the subject of their paintings. The French landscape became a major theme of the Barbizon painters.[2] Wikipedia

Troyon – The Ford

Dupre – The Old Oak

Jacque – The Old Forest

“The leaders of the Barbizon school were Théodore Rousseau, Jean-François Millet, and Charles-François Daubigny; other members included Jules Dupré, Constant Troyon, Charles Jacque, Narcisse Virgilio Díaz, Pierre Emmanuel Damoye, Charles Olivier de Penne, Henri Harpignies, Paul-Emmanuel Péraire, Gabriel-Hippolyte Lebas, Albert Charpin, Félix Ziem, François-Louis Français, Émile van Marcke, and Alexandre Defaux.” Wikipedia

Millet extended the idea from landscape to figures — peasant figures, scenes of peasant life, and work in the fields.

“In The Gleaners (1857), for example, Millet portrays three peasant women working at the harvest. Gleaners are poor people who are permitted to gather the remains after the owners of the field complete the main harvest. The owners (portrayed as wealthy) and their laborers are seen in the back of the painting. Millet shifted the focus and the subject matter from the rich and prominent to those at the bottom of the social ladders. To emphasize their anonymity and marginalized position, he hid their faces.” Wikipedia

Julien Dupre

Many of the aforementioned painters included cows in their paintings. There is something particularly bucolic about pastoral paintings with cows.

Jacki Kellum July 23, 2017