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Artists Théodore Rousseau
Théodore Rousseau Photo

Théodore Rousseau

French Painter

Movements and Styles: The Barbizon School, Naturalism, Romanticism

Born: April 15, 1812 - Paris, France

Died: December 22, 1867 - Barbizon, France

Théodore Rousseau Timeline

Quotes

"The forest [of Fontainebleau], the most ancient in France... is the only living souvenir that remains from the heroic times of the Fatherland from Charlemagne to Napoleon. For artists who study nature, it offers what others find in the models that have been left to us by Michelangelo, Raphael, Correggio, Rembrandt and all the great masters of past ages."
Théodore Rousseau
"Who will compose the sea, if not the artist's soul?"
Théodore Rousseau
"There is composition when the objects depicted are not depicted for themselves, but for the purpose of containing, under a natural appearance, the echoes that they have placed in our soul."
Théodore Rousseau
"Let us act such that in our works the manifestation of life is our first thought; let us make a man breathe, and a tree able actually to vegetate. He who knows how to give life is god, but he who can only tastefully arrange undulating contours, colors lily white or pink merely displays a turn for the upholsterer's calling or the perfumer's; he accumulates, the pretentious one!"
Théodore Rousseau

"Silence is golden. When I am at my observation post at Belle-Croix, I dare not move, for silence enables me to penetrate to the heart of discoveries. Then the forest families begin to stir. It was silence that enabled me, standing as still as a tree-trunk, to watch the stag cleaning himself... The man who lives in silence becomes the center of the world."

Théodore Rousseau Signature

Synopsis

Théodore Rousseau was known for his exceptional and unconventional nature based paintings. He was highly regarded as a pioneer and a leader of the Barbizon School of landscape art. Having realized his love for nature and his desire for expressing it through landscape paintings early in life, Rousseau was one of the earliest artists to have ventured directly in the outdoors to observe and analyze natural forms. He had thus made a decision on the choice of his subject that led him to ultimately pioneer and lead the Barbizon School. Painting landscape for its own sake, Rousseau elevated its status from that of a mere background support to becoming an independent entity. Even as all of his works were products of direct empirical studies from nature, he was able to create within them an extraordinary poignancy that was unique - which was much like his signature.

Key Ideas

Rousseau created a parallel world where nature's pristine power and glory could cast away the artificiality of industrialized modern life.
At times his works were considered lacking 'finish'. This effect was however, intentional by the artist who wanted to paint by being true to his observation of nature. Impressionist artists, who would follow soon, took this technical aspect of Rousseau further to create a new aesthetic.
With a mature understanding of current debates around mimetic vs. creative abilities of artists, Rousseau blended objective naturalism and his own artistic subjectivity to bring out an awe-inspiring landscape painting so as to fulfill the true role an artist.
Many of Rousseau's paintings challenged the dominant pictorial conventions of Neoclassicism and Romanticism. One of his early experiments depicting The Descent of Cows from the High Plateaus of the Jura is a clear breakaway from the typical horizontal orientation of western landscape art.

Biography

Théodore Rousseau Photo

Childhood

Born into a bourgeois Parisian family, Étienne Pierre Théodore Rousseau began exploring his love of landscape painting as early as age fourteen. His father, a tailor, originally positioned him to study business, but a journey to the Jura region of France changed his destiny. Known for its staggering limestone cliffs and lush forests, this location inspired in the young Rousseau a fervent urge to paint landscapes that would hold sway over him until the end of his life. On this transformative voyage he was fortunate enough to meet a fellow passenger who happened to be a sculptor named Lemaire. Rousseau learned from him the ways in which artists perceive nature and objects around them. Upon his return, he was encouraged by his mother's cousin, the landscape painter Alexandre Pau de Saint-Martin, to try his hand at painting. It was in Saint-Martin's studio that he first observed the art of painting in nature while he was accompanying his uncle to the Forest of Compiègne. The young Rousseau showed such immediate artistic promise that his parents soon decided to support his ambitions by sending him to the studio of Joseph Rémond in 1826.

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Théodore Rousseau Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Théodore Rousseau
Interactive chart with Théodore Rousseau's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

John ConstableJohn Constable
Richard Parkes Bonnington
Meindert Hobbema

Personal Contacts

Théophile Thoré
George Sand
Jules Dupré

Movements

NaturalismNaturalism
RomanticismRomanticism
Dutch Golden AgeDutch Golden Age

Influences on Artist
Théodore Rousseau
Théodore Rousseau
Years Worked: 1826 - 1867
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Narcisse Diaz de la Peña
Charles Daubigny
Jean-François MilletJean-François Millet

Personal Contacts

Théophile Thoré

Movements

The Barbizon SchoolThe Barbizon School
NaturalismNaturalism
RealismRealism
ImpressionismImpressionism

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Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

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