Camille Flers (French, 1868)

Born in Paris, Camille Flers (French, 1802–1868) first learned painting in the studio of a porcelain decorator. He later worked as a theater decorator and dancer, before becoming a pupil of the animal painter Joseph François Pâris.

Flers devoted himself to landscape painting, and he became one of the precursors of en plein air painting. Flers referred to himself as a romantique-naturaliste, and was a member of the new naturalist school of landscape painting that emerged in the 1830s. This new naturalistic approach was in direct opposition to the official classicism of the École des Beaux-Arts. He was one of the first to paint sure le motif (from life) in the forest of Fontainebleau, and also made frequent visits to Barbizon, joining the group of artists known as le groupe de Marlotte.

Flers works consist predominantly of views of Normandy and the Paris environs. He captured with authentic sensitivity the familiar scenes of farmyards, prairies, ponds, river banks, and thatched cottages. He made his debut at the Salon in 1831 with a View of the Village of Pissevache, Bas-Valais, and continued to exhibit there until 1863. His early style of the 1830s and 1840s was characterized by splashes of thick paint, a roughly textured paint surface, a bright palette, and a range of lively tones.

Between 1850 and 1860, he painted a series of images of rivers and ponds with boats and fishermen. These were executed in a style very close to that of Jules Dupré, with whom he was working at the time.

Flers was also noted for his pastels, which he exhibited at the Salon of 1843. In 1846, he published his theories of drawing in pastel in the Journal L’Artiste. These published theories did much to revive interest in the medium of pastel.