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Sunset,  by Théodore Rousseau (1812-1867)
Sunset,  by Théodore Rousseau (1812-1867) - Paintings & Drawings Style Sunset,  by Théodore Rousseau (1812-1867) -
Ref : 111202
18 000 €
Period :
19th century
Artist :
Théodore Rousseau (1812-1867),
Provenance :
Medium :
Oil on mahogany panel
Dimensions :
l. 9.45 inch X H. 7.48 inch
Paintings & Drawings  - Sunset,  by Théodore Rousseau (1812-1867)
Stéphane Renard Fine Art

Old master paintings and drawings

+33 (0) 61 46 31 534
Sunset, by Théodore Rousseau (1812-1867)

The attribution to Théodore Rousseau has been confirmed by Michel Schulman, an expert in the artist's work.

While an exhibition is currently celebrating the work of Théodore Rousseau at the Petit-Palais in Paris, we are delighted to present this work, which is entirely emblematic of his art: from 1847 onwards, the depiction of a dense forest in its primeval state became one of the artist's favorite subjects.

The title "Sunset" emphasizes the role of autumnal light illuminating a clearing in the late afternoon. In this view, probably inspired by the forest around Barbizon, Rousseau's palette offers a rich chromatic range, heightening the golden browns with powerful blacks underlined by a few clear touches. Drawing inspiration from Rousseau's fresh look at nature, and pursuing his research about light, the next generation of artists will invent Impressionism.

1. Théodore Rousseau, the voice of the forest

Théodore Rousseau was born in 1812 in Paris, the son of a tailor from the Jura region. Sent at thirteen to his father's native province, he learned to know and love the forests of the Jura. On his return to Paris, having decided to become a landscape painter, he studied briefly with Charles Rémond (1795-1875), a painter of historical landscape, whose instruction he found unhelpful and whom he left, in 1828, for another, no less academic, master, the history painter Guillon-Lethière (1760-1832). In 1829 he vainly tried to enter the academic competition for the Rome Prize for Historical Landscape. The following year, on a tour in the Auvergne, he painted his earliest, distinctly personal landscape studies, on which in 1831 he based his first Salon entry. In 1834, a landscape of "Dutch" character, Edge of the Forest at Pierrefonds, was bought by the duc d'Orléans and won him a medal at the Salon.

He had meanwhile joined a bohemian clique gathered around Théophile Thoré, an early socialist and future art critic. Rousseau's association with these eccentrics and dissenters irritated the Salon authorities, who retaliated by rejecting his submissions. On a tour in the Jura in 1835 he conceived a vast, crowded composition, Descent of the Cattle from the Meadows, that occupied him for a year; it was emphatically rejected by the Salon of 1836. More rebuffs in the following years discouraged him from entering further work. Finding the Salon closed to him, he shifted to saleable subjects of modest scale, treated in a naturalist style. In search of motifs, he visited the forest of Fontainebleau, staying at Chailly in 1834 and, at Barbizon in 1836. In The Avenue of Chestnuts (Louvre), painted during 1837-1840, he composed a symmetrical view, animated by the writhings of interwoven branches that form a natural architecture.

With Jules Dupré (1811-1889), his friend and painting companion in the 1840s, he explored the spacious plains of the Berry and Landes regions. During 1845 and 1846 he shared a studio with Dupré in L'Isle-Adam. A contented bachelor until then, he was brought to the brink of matrimony in 1847 by the novelist George Sand who offered him the hand of her adopted daughter. Gossip, which Rousseau blamed on Dupré, frustrated the match. Deeply resentful, he withdrew to the village of Barbizon at the edge of the forest of Fontainebleau, accompanied by an ailing woman, Eliza Gros, with whom he shared the rest of his life. For purposes of business he kept a Paris address.

The Revolution of 1848, in which he took no active part, temporarily broke the power of academic juries. A committee of artists, including Rousseau, took charge of the liberated Salon. The government of the new Republic, to make amends for past neglect, asked him for a picture on a subject of his own choice. The result was the large and rather formal View of the Forest of Fontainebleau: Sunset (Louvre - 6th picture in the gallery). In 1849, at his first Salon in fourteen years, he showed three paintings and was given a gold medal; but Dupré, who had exhibited nothing, received the cross of the Legion of Honor. This ended their friendship.

Jean-François Millet, who had moved to Barbizon in 1849, now took Dupré's place in Rousseau's life. Appointed to the Salon jury in 1850, Rousseau exhibited seven paintings that year. The Legion of Honor at last accepted him following the Salon of 1852. The following years were an interlude of prosperity in his life. At the Universal Exposition of 1855, which he had helped to jury, his entry of thirteen paintings won a triumphant success. But a reaction soon set in. At the Salons of 1857-1863 his paintings were coldly received. The demand for his work slackened; sales held in 1861 and 1863 produced poor results. Rousseau lived in a state of nervous excitation, haunted by creditors and depressed by his wife's gradual decline into insanity. In 1866 large purchases by the dealers Brame and Durand-Ruel temporarily restored his finances. Later that year, he was elected president of the art jury for the Universal Exposition of 1867, and at its close received the Grand Medal of Honor. But, unlike other members of the jury, he was not made an officer of the Legion of Honor. The emperor himself ultimately repaired this slight, but the exasperation it had caused Rousseau broke his health. Cared for by Millet, he died in his cottage at Barbizon in December 1867.

Rousseau's naturalism was the product of meditative study, not rapid transcription: incapable of spontaneity, he doggedly reworked his pictures in the studio. He understood nature as a process of constant growth and dissolution and thought of trees as fellow creatures, each marked by its own fate and struggle. Solitary, pious without religion, a materialist romantically in love with nature, he sought in his work to reconcile emotional empathy with objective sight.

2. Description of the artwork

The painting we present is typical of Rousseau's research into the representation of the forest, and particularly the dense, undeveloped forest, which became one of his favorite subjects from 1847 onwards.
Beyond a clearing with a shimmering pond in the foreground, a path leads into the forest between two tall, broken trees. A walker, perhaps gathering bundles of wood, is evoked by a red spot, giving us the scale of these imposing trunks. By reducing the size of this human figure and monumentalizing the nature around her, Rousseau demonstrates a new understanding of man's place in the cosmos.

On the left, a large boulder next to a group of oaks with gnarled branches indicates that we are in the Fontainebleau forest; this is one of the artist's favorite motifs, which we find again, for example, in The forest in Winter at Sunset (Metropolitan Museum - New York). This painting, inspired by the forest of Bas-Bréau near Barbizon, was probably begun around 1845-1847, but remained unfinished in the artist's studio at the time of his death.

Our painting bears witness to the unitary, pantheistic conception of Rousseau, who lived in mystical communion with the forest. "For him, trees have a soul, so much so that he considers the drawings he makes of them as portraits" . This naturalistic concern is reflected here in the careful description of the two broken trees in the center of the composition, which contrast in their tragic bareness with the majesty of the two oak trees on the left, as if sheltered behind a large boulder.

3. Provenance and framing

This painting comes from the personal collection of Paul Touzet (1898 - 1981). Between the wars, he opened his first gallery on rue de l'Université. He then moved to rue des Beaux-Arts, where he mainly exhibited Dutch and Flemish paintings. In the 1960s, his main activity became that of expert at public auctions, and he remained one of the most renowned experts in Paris until his death in 1981.

Our panel is presented in a rich neo-Louis XIII frame, typical of late 19th-century production and the framing given to paintings by the Barbizon painters, a name later used to designate this type of framing.

Main bibliographical reference
Théodore Rousseau la voix de la forêt - catalog of the Petit Palais exhibition, edited by Servane Dargnies - de Vitry - Editions Paris Musées 2024

Exhibition: Le Paysage français de Corot à nos jours, Galerie Charpentier 1942 - number 156 (from a label on the back)

Delevery information :

The prices indicated are the prices for purchases at the gallery.

Depending on the price of the object, its size and the location of the buyer we are able to offer the best transport solution which will be invoiced separately and carried out under the buyer's responsibility.

Stéphane Renard Fine Art


19th Century Oil Painting