Impressionism and Open-Air Painting

Trees and Plants

The practice of executing open-air studies of the finest and most picturesque trees and plants became widespread in late 18th-century Italy. Additionally, the work of the Swedish naturalist Linnaeus sparked an interest in botany that spread rapidly throughout the English-speaking world. However, it was in early 19th-century France that this type of study became widespread, as works entered for the Grand Prix de Rome de paysage historique, created in 1817, required a great deal of preparation. For the Barbizon painters, some years later, trees became silent protagonists of the landscape. In the early 1860s the Impressionists also painted trees in the Forest of Fontainebleau, but in contrast to the Romantic interest in the sentiments transmitted by great oaks and beeches, artists like Monet focused on the visual sensations of light as it filters through leaves. Studies of trees took on an essentially expressive character in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The Great Oaks..

Théodore Rousseau The Great Oaks of Old Bas-Bréau, 1864

Oil on canvas. 90.2 x 116,8 cm.
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
Museum purchase with funds provided by the Agnes Cullen Arnold Endowment Fund

The Bodmer Oak

Claude Monet The Bodmer Oak, Fontainebleau Forest, 1865

Oil on canvas. 96.2 x 129.2 cm.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Gift of Sam Salz and bequest of Julia W. Emmons, by exchange, 1964

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