Théodore Rousseau (French, 1867)


Théodore Rousseau was the founder of the Barbizon School of Painting on the edge of the Forest of Fontainebleau. Corot arrived in the village of Barbizon in 1822 while Rousseau began painting in the Forest in the second half of the 1820s. He studied in the studio of Rémond and then of Guillon-Lethière. After a long painting trip to the Auvergne, he began to show at the Salon, exhibiting from 1831 until 1835. Rousseau already applied his paint thickly so as to better suggest the light. He exhibited two landscapes at the Salon of 1834. Of this period dates his friendship with Jules Dupré that will last until 1847. Together they painted the Landes, the Basque Country and the Berry; and Rousseau learned from Dupré the technique of the grisaille with spirit and continued studying light and the sky.
Rousseau's republican sympathies became manifest in this decade, and he was excluded from the Salon in 1836 and from 1838 to 1840. He stopped submitting from 1841 to 1848. He exhibited three pictures in 1849 and won a first-class medal. Although his absence from the Salon deprived him of a conventional career, he cultivated the position of outsider and was championed by Baudelaire, George Sand, and above all Thoré. That Rousseau inculcated his essentially realistic paintings with a romantic sensibility endeared him to his supporters. Nevertheless, Rousseau relished the role of outsider, which he paradoxically maintained even after gaining critical and financial success. Yet while the journalists who favored him tended to be left wing, the collectors who bought his pictures tended to be rich, well connected and conservative, such as the duc de Morny and the baron Nathan de Rothschild.
Success finally arrived in 1855: a room was reserved for him at the Exposition Universelle of 1855. After that, he regularly exhibited, winning medals and awards, considered with dignity and respect by a state, which ultimately showered him with honor, perhaps in compensation for his previous neglect. In 1857 he traveled to Picardie and painted landscapes influenced by the Dutch. Napoléon III invited him to Compiègne in 1865.