Theodore Rousseau Biography | Oil Paintings

4-15-1812 Paris, FRA - 12-22-1867 Barbizon, FRA

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Rousseau, Theodore

A French landscape painter, Théodore Rousseau is hailed as the leader of the Barbizon School. The son of a clothier, Rousseau developed a deep love for the countryside at an early age. After working in a sawmill, he decided to take up landscape painting and trained with Joseph Remond. The latter produced classical landscapes, but Rousseau's naturalistic tendencies were better served by the study of foreign artists, such as Van Ruisdael and Constable. He adopted the practice of making sketches outdoor, a foretaste of Impressionism, although he still preferred to finish his paintings in the studio.

Théodore Rousseau had exhibited six works in the Salons between 1831 and 1835, but in 1836 his great work Paysage du Jura (La Descente des Vaches) was rejected. He sent a total of eight works to the Salon between 1836 and 1841 and all were rejected. So, he stopped sending work to the Salon until 1849, when all three of his works were accepted.

Théodore Rousseau's favorite location was the Barbizon region, at the edge of the Forest of Fontainebleau. By the late 1840s, this area had become the focus for a group of like-minded artists known as the Barbizon School. Headed by Rousseau, this circle included Corot, Daubigny, Diaz, and Millet.

In the 1850s, Rousseau's work achieved widespread recognition, fetching high prices, but he preferred to remain in Barbizon, campaigning to preserve the character of the forest.

Théodore Rousseau then suffered a series of misfortunes. His wife, who had been a source of constant anxiety for years, became almost insane; his father became dependent on him for help; his patrons were few. While he was away with his invalid wife, a friend of his family committed suicide in his cottage; when he visited the Alps in 1863, making sketches of Mont Blanc, he became ill with inflammation of the lungs; and when he returned to Barbizon he suffered from insomnia and became weakened. He became paralyzed in 1867, he died in his cottage, in the arms of fellow landscape artist and friend Jean-François Millet, and at his death, Millet assumed charge of the insane wife.

Art Movement: Barbizon School.
Artists Influencing Theodore Rousseau: John Constable, Jacob van Ruisdael.
Artist Biography compiled by Albert L. Mansour at The World's Artist.

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