Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes (French, 1750–1819)
Oil on paper, laid down on canvas
8 3/8 x 19 3/8 in. (21.3 x 49.2 cm)
The Whitney Collection, Promised Gift of Wheelock Whitney III, and Purchase, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles S. McVeigh, by exchange, 2003 (2003.42.54)
Valenciennes, a landscape painter and theoretician, pioneered painting en plein air, or outdoors, in late eighteenth-century France, anticipating the rise of this practice in the 1820s, notably in the work of Corot and the Barbizon artists. This undated sketch figures among a group of plein-air oil studies painted in Brittany, possibly in 1785, after the artist returned from Italy. Although the site has been identified—the mouth of the Rance River—Valenciennes' summary handling reflects his intent to capture the overall effect of light at a specific time of day rather than topographical details. For that reason, he limited the time spent on executing such sketches to two hours.