Today was Talk and Draw at the National Gallery. We had a short talk about George Michel’s landscape painting. Michel is an unknown artist who worked at the Louvre in Paris during the mid 19th century. This painting would have been done in the studio. He was probably influenced by Constable who went to Paris in the mid 19th century.
Stormy LanRuins in a Field, George Michel, 1820
We spent an hour doing two drawings in pastel on buff sugar paper – I really enjoyed it and will be going again. Pastel is a wonderful way of drawing if you don’t like line but prefer areas of colour and tone. We used our fingers and a rubber also to make areas of colour, smudges, etc.
Pastel drawing, my copy of George Michels landscape in the National Gallery, London
Information about the Barbizon School: In 1824 the Salon de Paris exhibited works of John Constable, an English painter. His rural scenes influenced some of the younger artists of the time, moving them to abandon formalism and to draw inspiration directly from nature. Natural scenes became the subjects of their paintings rather than mere backdrops to dramatic events. During the Revolutions of 1848 artists gathered at Barbizon to follow Constable’s ideas, making nature the subject of their paintings. The French landscape became a major theme of the Barbizon painters.
The leaders of the Barbizon school were Théodore Rousseau, Jean-François Millet, and Charles-François Daubigny; other members included Jules Dupré, Constant Troyon, Charles Jacque, Narcisse Virgilio Díaz, Pierre Emmanuel Damoye, Charles Olivier de Penne, Henri Harpignies, Paul-Emmanuel Péraire, Gabriel-Hippolyte Lebas, Albert Charpin, Félix Ziem, François-Louis Français, Émile van Marcke, and Alexandre Defaux.
Millet extended the idea from landscape to figures — peasant figures, scenes of peasant life, and work in the fields. In The Gleaners (1857), for example, Millet portrays three peasant women working at the harvest. Gleaners are poor people who are permitted to gather the remains after the owners of the field complete the main harvest. The owners (portrayed as wealthy) and their laborers are seen in the back of the painting. Millet shifted the focus and the subject matter from the rich and prominent to those at the bottom of the social ladders. To emphasize their anonymity and marginalized position, he hid their faces. The women’s bowed bodies represent their everyday hard work.
In the spring of 1829, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot came to Barbizon to paint in the Forest of Fontainebleau, he had first painted in the forest at Chailly in 1822. He returned to Barbizon in the autumn of 1830 and in the summer of 1831, where he made drawings and oil studies, from which he made a painting intended for the Salon of 1830; “View of the Forest of Fontainebleau'” (now in the National Gallery in Washington) and, for the salon of 1831, another “View of the Forest of Fontainebleau”‘. While there he met the members of the Barbizon school; Théodore Rousseau, Paul Huet, Constant Troyon, Jean-François Millet, and the young Charles-François Daubigny.
During the late 1860s, the Barbizon painters attracted the attention of a younger generation of French artists studying in Paris. Several of those artists visited Fontainebleau Forest to paint the landscape, including Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley and Frédéric Bazille. In the 1870s those artists, among others, developed the art movement called Impressionism and practiced plein air painting.
Influence in Europe
Painters in other countries were also influenced by this art. Beginning in the late nineteenth century, many artists came to Paris from Austria-Hungary to study the new movements. For instance, the Hungarian painter János Thorma studied in Paris as a young man. In 1896 he was one of the founders of the Nagybánya artists’ colony in what is now Baia Mare, Romania, which brought impressionism to Hungary. In 2013 the Hungarian National Gallery opens a major retrospective of his work, entitled, ”János Thorma, the Painter of the Hungarian Barbizon, 8 February – 19 May 2013, Hungarian National Gallery