After a youth spent in his native Bresse region, where his father was a hatter and his mother the director of a boarding school, Antoine Chintreuil went to Paris in 1838 to become an artist. He found work in a bookshop where he met Jules Husson, a young art critic soon to be known as Champfleury; the two became firm friends and Champfleury introduced him into a cultivated artistic circle that would provide him with his most faithful supporters. Around 1840 he made a decisive encounter with Corot, who took his training in hand. The pupil picked up the master's technique in the course of lessons from the motif in the countryside near Paris, but his sensibility led him more to transitional outdoor moments and the way air and light changed under the influence of the weather; thus he developed a highly sophisticated, poetic repertoire, despite the ordinariness of the places he observed. After several rejections he made his debut at the Salon in 1847. His vision of nature was universally appreciated, but not always by the Salon jury, and unqualified recognition only came in the late 1860s. Too reserved and concerned with his art to be a good salesman, he had his pictures placed by such well-disposed friends as Béranger, Champfleury and Alexandre Dumas fils. For the writer and painter Frédéric Henriet he was the "Saint Jerome of landscape" and of those who loved nature "to the point of self-sacrifice, of pneumonia and rheumatism." Indeed, his long outdoor painting sessions in all weathers aggravated his tuberculosis and hastened his early death.
As capturing the specific atmosphere and light of certain times of day required the use of colour, Chintreuil painted much more than he drew, whence the profusion of his oil studies on paper and canvas. His predilection for wide-format landscapes, of which our study offers a new example, demonstrates his extraordinarily acute grasp of spatiality. Gazing out across the broad, flat expanse of a harvested field, he depicts a property surrounded by a wall above which rise foliage and high thatched roofs. A hedge punctuated by trees extends the greenery leftwards, while a wooded hill closes the horizon across the entire width of the picture. Within the narrow framework of his sheet of paper the marked economy of Chintreuil's brushwork creates a sweeping panorama given depth by small indicators – a figure in back view holding a stick, a haystack, posts – while the differences of proportion between these objects and the roof volumes establish the picture's spatial dimension.
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