- NAME: Théodore Rousseau
- OCCUPATION: Artist
- BIRTH DATE: April 15, 1812
- DEATH DATE: December 22, 1867
- Did You Know?: Théodore Rousseau, a French landscape painter of the mid-19th century, was a major influence on the later generation of Impressionist artists.
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Paris, France
- PLACE OF DEATH: Barbizon, France
- AKA: Pierre Étienne Théodore Rousseau
- AKA: Théodore Rousseau
- Full Name: Pierre-Etienne-Théodore Rousseau
- Nickname: Le Grand Refusé
Best Known For
French artist Théodore Rousseau is known as the founder of the 19th century style of landscape painting called the "Barbizon School."
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Théodore Rousseau was born in Paris, France, on April 15, 1812. After receiving traditional artistic training in Paris, he established his own style of landscape painting, working directly from nature near the village of Barbizon. He became the leader of a group of artists known as the "Barbizon School," who emphasized nature's untamed aspects. Although he didn't achieve critical acceptance until late in life, Rousseau was admired by other painters,
including the first generation of Impressionists. He died on December 22, 1867.
Pierre-Étienne-Théodore Rousseau was born on April 15, 1812, in Paris, France. His father was a tailor, and his parents owned a dry-goods store in the city. Around the age of 14, Rousseau made a journey to the mountainous Jura region of France and was so inspired by the landscape that he took up painting. His parents had planned for him to study civil engineering at the École Polytechnique when he finished school. However, his interest in art was so strong that they agreed to send him to train with the landscape artist Alexandre Pau de St-Martin, a cousin of Rousseau's mother.
After studying in St-Martin's studio, Rousseau received further training from the artists Joseph Rémond and Guillaume Lethière; however, he found their styles too tradition-bound. Rousseau began to paint outdoors in the Parisian suburbs as much as possible, rather than working in the studio. He was influenced by the naturalist style of Dutch and Flemish landscape painters of the 17th century, and by the work of 19th-century British artist John Constable, who was known for his views of the English countryside.
In 1830, when he was 18 years old, Théodore Rousseau began to travel farther beyond the city to work from nature. He was particularly drawn to the country village of Barbizon, 35 miles southeast of Paris, and the nearby forest of Fontainebleau. There, he developed his own style of landscape painting, which differed from the calm, precise depictions of nature that dominated French painting. Rousseau preferred to evoke the landscape's wild, untamed side, often through vivid lighting effects and looser brushwork. He also emphasized the landscape as a subject in itself, without imposing mythological or historical narratives onto it.
The landscape around Barbizon, a rugged terrain with majestic trees, forest gorges, rocky ground and open fields, is present in most of Rousseau's work of the 1830s and 1840s. A few of his most significant works of these years are "Under the Birches, Evening" (1842-44, Toledo Museum of Art), "Hoarfrost" (1845; Baltimore, Walters Art Gallery) and "The Little Fisherman" (1848-89; Paris, Louvre). He painted these scenes directly from nature, often incorporating the intense effects of various seasons and weather conditions, such as colorful winter sunsets, stormy skies and wintry fields.
By mid-century, Rousseau was the unofficial leader of a group of artists who shared his Romantic artistic ideals of emotion and spontaneity.
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