During the early 19th-century, the Forest of Fontainebleau, near Paris, spanned over 42,000 acres and housed a wide range of flora and fauna. It had everything a landscape painter longed for and became a source of inspiration for a new movement in art.
Painters, such as Théodore Rousseau (1812-1867), were attracted to its dense woodland, rugged gorges, and dusty clearings. Excited to capture exactly what they saw and often working in all conditions.
Théodore Rousseau, Charcoal Hut in the Forest of Fontainebleau
On the edge of the Forest, small villages, such as Barbizon, provided a welcome retreat for the weary traveller. With many bedding down at the Auberge Ganne, a popular inn. Legend has it that the inn was a hotbed of drama - essentially an artistic commune for those escaping Paris.
Can you imagine the conversations? Rooms crammed with painters keen to share their opinions.
Jules Dupré, Fontainebleau Oaks
It was during this time that the great landscape painter Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796-1875) came to Barbizon and began to explore Fontainebleau. It was the perfect storm - the scenery, weather and atmosphere created the ideal environment to flourish.
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Scene in the Forest of Fontainebleau
Corot, like many of his Barbizon contemporaries, possessed a willingness to paint outdoors. To capture the shifting light in all its complexities. At the time, this was groundbreaking as it pre-dated the impressionists. Most landscape painters were producing work from studios - dissuaded by the idea of carrying an easel into the woods.
This passion for ‘plein air’ painting led to Corot eventually working in a looser style and with a broader mark. His work evolved to become enigmatic, poignant and brimming with atmosphere.
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Ville d'Avray
Paul Desire Trouillebert
Corot had a gift for communicating a mood rather than simply a likeness of the landscape before him. His rhythmical works seem to bind man and nature and evoke a sense of eternal unity. They pull you in and send your thoughts tumbling through the scenery.
His atmospheric style inspired a host of younger painters who were keen to explore this new approach. One such painter was Frenchman Paul Desire Trouillebert (1829-1900) who until around 1860 was known predominantly for his portraits and scenes.
Trouillebert was a student of Ernest Hébert (1817-1908) and Charles Jalabert (1819-1901) who both worked in a polished academic style. As a result, his early approach was broadly the same, which led to several appearances at the illustrious Paris Salon.
But during the 1860s, his style began to change as he embraced a new desire for expression. His landscapes became lyrical, fluid and evocative - much like his Barbizon contemporaries. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, it was the magical Forest at Fontainebleau that provided the inspiration.
Over the next 40 years, Trouillebert produced an impressive portfolio of landscapes and is today considered an important member of the Barbizon School.
“His oeuvre, which was considerable, conserves a tonality that is its own, an incontestable originality and a strong personality which differentiates it from Corot…and which assures him one of the greatest places, even if it isn’t the first among the contemporary landscape painters.”
Édouard-Joseph, Dictionnaire Biographique des Artistes Contemporains.
Trouillebert's passion to capture an atmosphere that extended beyond the aesthetic alone is also evident in his portraiture. So perhaps the spell-binding qualities of Fontainebleau left an indelible mark on his character.
Paul Désiré Trouillebert, Jeune femme en buste. Christie's.
We're delighted to hold one of Trouillebert's portraits here in the collection at Brave. It dates to 1869 and depicts a young lady in black.