In the first of these two articles tracing the artistic history of the Barbizon School from the influence of John Constable to the birth of Impressionism, I showed landscape paintings from the period 1825-1852.
Daubigny’s success at the Salon of 1853 was The Pond at Gylieu, which earned him a first-class medal, and was bought by Emperor Napoleon III. The detail below shows its pair of grey herons.
Henri Harpignies was a latecomer. He had left Paris with the Revolution of 1848, and didn’t return until 1852, when he exhibited his first three landscapes there. He started visiting the village of Barbizon, where he painted largely en plein air, including this fine view of Fir Trees in Les Trembleaux, near Marlotte from 1854.
Constant Troyon was still painting into the light, with great effect. His Oxen Going to Work from 1855 captures the fleeting appearance of their steamy breath.
In about 1855, Camille Corot painted his more gestural Wooded Landscape with Cows in a Clearing.
Daubigny developed views of riverbanks, particularly in the Île de France, something he continued for the rest of his career, and later became adopted by Pissarro, Monet, Sisley, and other Impressionists.
Another theme which was to become popular with the Impressionists was that of orchards in blossom, which Daubigny introduced at the 1857 Salon, long before Japonisme developed almost a decade later.
Troyon’s On the Way to Market (1859) is one of his finest paintings, and one of the best from the school. Its melee of sheep, cattle, dog, donkey and horse are outlined by the brilliant sunlight, which combines with the breath of the animals and the dust kicked up by their hooves to create a remarkable shallow-focus effect. This was surely inspiration for some of Camille Pissarro’s later, and equally brilliant, paintings.
Daubigny’s growing success enabled him to invest in two studio innovations: the first was a floating studio, in his boat Botin, which he used from 1857; the second was his construction of a studio on land which he had purchased at Auvers-sur-Oise, laying the foundations of the artists’ colony there, which in turn enabled van Gogh’s final prodigious two months of painting.
In 1865, when he was twenty-six, Alfred Sisley painted this Avenue of Chestnut Trees in La Celle-Saint-Cloud on the edge of the Forest of Fontainebleau. He didn’t submit it to the Salon until 1867, when it was refused. It then remained unsold for ten years before being bought by his patron Jean-Baptiste Faure, a celebrated opera singer.
Sisley was probably painting there in the company of Auguste Renoir, who was a couple of years younger than him. Clearing in the Woods (1865) is Renoir’s first substantial (surviving) landscape painting, and shows Corot’s influence. This clearing in the midst of massive chestnut trees is believed to be near the small village of La Celle-St-Cloud.
The rest is Impressionism.