In this study, tonality and the dispersal of light are emphasized at the expense of detail. Aligny developed this distinctive approach to painting and drawing from nature in the 1820s, first alongside his companion Camille Corot in Italy and later in the Forest of Fontainebleau in his native France. The view seen here may have been sketched in the park of the château of Mortefontaine near Senlis, northeast of Paris, which Aligny visited in 1850 and 1851.
The most distinctive feature of this study is the flattening of form through the use of a restricted palette: tonality and the dispersal of light are emphasized at the expense of detail. Aligny’s discovery of this approach to sketching out of doors came about in tandem with his drawing practice. Aligny developed the technique in the 1820s, first alongside his companion Camille Corot in Italy and later in the Forest of Fontainebleau. Characteristic of drawings in this vein is Castello Colonna at Genazzano (MMA 1989.23), in which line is employed in such a way that the forms and voids they define achieve varying degrees of vibrancy. The origins of this tonalism have been explained as the direct response of artists from north of the Alps to working under the bright sun of the South, which tends to suppress detail in the full light of day (see Lynne D. Ambrosini, "Peasants in French Painting, 1815–1848: The Romantic Roots of the Realist Mode," Ph.D. dissertation, Insitute of Fine Arts, New York University, 1989, pp. 406–8). It may have been introduced by the Nazarene school of German painters who were active in Rome at the same time as Aligny and Corot (see Marie Lørdrup Bang, Johan Christian Dahl 1788–1857: Life and Works, Oslo, 1987, vol. 1, pp. 49–51, 194–95 nn.).
Aubrun (1979) identified the subject depicted here as a view in the park of the château of Mortefontaine near Senlis, northeast of Paris. She posited a date of about 1850–55, that is, between Aligny’s documented visits to Mortefontaine in 1850–51 and his completion of two paintings for the Salon of 1859. Only one of these paintings, both of which were exhibited under the title View in the Park at Mortefontaine (nos. 23 and 24), has been identified (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyons, inv. X-833; see Aubrun 1988, no. 129). Conisbee (1980), while noting that Corot also worked at Mortefontaine in the 1850s, was implicitly reticent about identifying the site, however.
[Asher Ethan Miller 2013]
Inscription: Signed (lower left): CA [monogram]
[art dealer, Nancy, until 1976; sold to Boyer]; Jean-Claude Boyer, Paris (1976–87; sold to Whitney); Wheelock Whitney III, New York (from 1987)
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Orléans. "Théodore Caruelle d'Aligny (1798–1871) et ses compagnons," February 28–April 20, 1979, no. 29 (as "Mortefontaine," lent by private collection, Paris).
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Dunkerque. "Théodore Caruelle d'Aligny (1798–1871) et ses compagnons," April 25–June 20, 1979, no. 29.
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rennes. "Théodore Caruelle d'Aligny (1798–1871) et ses compagnons," June 25–September 4, 1979, no. 29.
Cambridge. Fitzwilliam Museum. "Painting from Nature," November 25, 1980–January 11, 1981, no. 84 (as "Sketch of a wood," lent by a private collection, France).
London. Diploma Galleries, Royal Academy of Arts. "Painting from Nature," January 31–March 15, 1981, no. 84.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Path of Nature: French Paintings from the Wheelock Whitney Collection, 1785–1850," January 22–April 21, 2013, unnumbered cat. (fig. 52).
Marie-Madeleine Aubrun. Théodore Caruelle d'Aligny (1798–1871) et ses compagnons. Exh. cat., Musée des Beaux-Arts, Orléans. 1979, unpaginated, no. 29, ill., states that the artist made numerous visits to the English-style park of Mortefontaine, near Senlis; compares it to a drawing with a similar composition (private collection, Paris; Ref. Aubrun 1988, no. D.805).
Philip Conisbee. Painting from Nature: The Tradition of Open-Air Oil Sketching from the 17th to 19th Centuries. Exh. cat.London, 1980, p. 44, no. 84, observes that this study is "much less formal, with its open foreground and broad, simplified pattern of light and dark foliage" than "Vue prise dans le parc de Mortefontaine," exhibited at the Salon of 1859 (now Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyons).
Marie-Madeleine Aubrun. Théodore Caruelle d'Aligny, 1798–1871. [France], 1988, pp. 122, 185, no. 109, ill. (color and black and white), dates it 1850–55.
Asher Ethan Miller. "The Path of Nature: French Paintings from the Wheelock Whitney Collection, 1785–1850." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 70 (Winter 2013), p. 44, fig. 52 (color) and ill. on inside front and back cover (color detail).