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Théodore Rousseau, The voice of the forest at the Petit Palais Paris 8th

The exhibition is dedicated to the artist Théodore Rousseau (1812-1867), who established nature as a religion. Becoming the leader of the community of artisans who frequented the hamlet of Barbizon and the forest of Fontainebleau, he played an essential role in the establishment of a new French school of landscape in the mid-19th century, paving the way for the the emergence of impressionism.


Date: From March 5, 2024 to July 7, 2024

Location: Petit Palais

Desires: Impressionism, Biography



Théodore Rousseau's affection for nature was marked by an authentic ecological sensitivity: his new outlook on the forest of Fontainebleau led to the preservation of part of it under the name of the famous "artistic reserves" ( 1853), a global initiative in the midst of the industrial era. Both sentimental and pragmatic, Rousseau aspired to grasp the balance of the cosmos. He blurred the boundaries between painting and sketching, between sketching and artistic creation.


Who is Théodore Rousseau?

Théodore Rousseau (1812–1867) was a 19th-century French painter, known for his major role in the Barbizon School movement, an emerging community of artists that established itself in the village of Barbizon and the forest of Fontainebleau. Rousseau devoted his life to landscape painting, making nature his main source of inspiration and contemplation.

As a leader of the artists' colony at Barbizon, Rousseau played a fundamental role in the development of a new French school of landscape during the mid-19th century. This period was marked by a radical change in the way artists approached the depiction of nature, paving the way for the evolution towards Impressionism.

Rousseau's special relationship with nature was deeply rooted in an avant-garde ecological consciousness. His innovative look at the Fontainebleau forest even led to concrete actions, such as the protection of part of it, established under the name of famous "artistic reserves" in 1853. This represented a pioneering initiative in a context of increasing industrialization, emphasizing the importance of preserving nature in the face of social and economic changes.

Both romantic and realistic in his artistic approach, Rousseau aspired to capture the harmony of the natural world. He distinguished himself by deliberately blurring the boundaries between different artistic mediums such as painting and drawing, as well as between stages of the creative process, from sketch to completed work. His legacy lies in his contribution to the evolution of French landscape art and the recognition of nature as an infinite source of artistic inspiration.


The beginnings of impressionism, an artistic revolution.

The beginnings of Impressionism in the mid-19th century represented a significant break from established artistic conventions and were the result of both an aesthetic and philosophical revolution in the art world. This movement, emerging primarily in France, was characterized by a rejection of rigid academic norms and an innovative exploration of visual perception.

Toward the end of the 1860s, a group of artists, including such prominent figures as Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro, and others, formed around the idea of breaking with traditional artistic conventions. These artists began to experiment with innovative techniques, including the use of light, color, and a more spontaneous approach to visual representation.

The term "Impressionism" itself has its origins in the title of an iconic work by Monet, "Impression, Soleil Levant" (1872). The 1874 exhibition, often cited as the founding event of the movement, sparked an initial critical reaction, where the style of painting characterized by rapid strokes and light effects was seen as unconventional.

The Impressionists took a more direct and immediate approach to nature, choosing to paint en plein air to capture natural light and nature's changing shades. They abandoned realistic precision in favor of immediacy and often worked on smaller canvases, allowing for quicker execution and greater mobility.

Favorite themes included scenes from everyday life, landscapes, and fleeting moments. The innovative use of color, with touches juxtaposed instead of mixed across the palette, created vibrant visual effects and a more faithful representation of ambient light.

Impressionism marked a major transformation in the conception of art, challenging established norms of visual representation. Although initially controversial, this movement eventually gained recognition and paved the way for new artistic developments during the 20th century. Its lasting impact is evident in the way artists have since approached the representation of reality and the constant search for innovation in artistic expression.


Date: From March 5, 2024 to July 7, 2024

Location: Petit Palais

Desires: Impressionism, Biography

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