Barbizon ... and Grez

Slightly more than an hour’s drive south of Paris, you will find the charming little village Barbizon, on the edge of the Forest of Fontainebleau. Barbizon has actually given its name to what you in the middle of the 19th century could consider as a new type of art - one talks about the “Barbizon School” as the beginning of landscape painting – painting landscapes and countryside just for what they are – without any religious, mythological or historical “excuse”.

Before talking art, let’s just notice that the village has a lot of charm and obviously had it already in the middle of the 19th century, attracting a lot of people who were happy to leave the city centre for a little while or, as what happened to a number of artists, to really settle down.

Here we can see some of the more famous artists who worked and lived here, Theodore Rousseau obviously being the first to settle down here, already in 1836. (Rosa Bonheur didn’t live in the village itself, but close, and she clearly belongs to the “Barbizon School”.)  It should be remembered that these artists prepared for the later success of the impressionists and in some cases actively supported some of the future impressionists.

In the village we can find the houses which were occupied by Rousseau, Millet, Diaz and also the hostel “Ganne”, where many artists lived more or less permanently.

Millet’s house is today a little museum, of course basically dedicated to his art. We can see some old engravings and recognize where Millet was sitting in front of his easel, the photo of a lady who, when she was younger, was the model for the famous painting “Angelus”, the clock which marks six o’clock, the hour when Millet died in this room…

… and a number of paintings by Millet, Rousseau and others and also a little sculpture by Rosa Bonheur and Millet's palette..

My attention was drawn to the fact that Vincent van Gogh obviously was a fan of Millet. Vincent spent part of the cold winter days 1889-90 in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence copying or interpreting works by other painters and most of these "copies" were inspired by Millet. (I don’t know how he in 1889 managed to get photos, copies… of Millet’s works. I suppose that Théo sent him material?)  We can also see that already ten years earlier Vincent had copied a few of Millet’s paintings, just when he had seriously started to try to be an artist.

Robert-Louis Stevenson came quite often to Barbizon as a young man… and he also went to another little village in the neighbourhood, Grez-sur-Loing, to the Hotel Chevillon, where he met many artists and also met his future wife… and this is actually also where I went after Barbizon, to listen to a little private concert by well-known artists in Sweden Monica and Carl-Axel Dominique and their cello-playing friend John Ehde. (I wrote about Grez in a previous post here.)


Karen said...

What a great post, Peter. Always so inforative but this one even more so. Vincent is a favorite of mine and I didn't know this. Thank you,

lyliane six said...

Très intéressant ce village que je ne connais que de nom, ce n'est pas loin, j'irai y faire un tour un de ces jours.

Mystica said...

Everything is new to me. I loved the potted art lesson as well. You've made me more determined to come visit Paris again.

sukicart said...

Fascinating - loved this post.

Maria Russell said...

The weather looks perfect on this lovely and instructive tour! Love that painting of Rosa Bonheur, too.
Thank you so much.

Studio at the Farm said...

What a wonderful post, Peter!! Thank you! Such a beautiful village!!!