From Romanticism to Barbizon—Rousseau in his Time:
For much of the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth, the term “Men of 1830” resonated with enthusiasts of modern art by linking the democratic spirit that fueled the final overthrow of the Bourbon monarchy with the Romantic movement in France and subsequent waves of artistic innovation. Its emblem is Liberty Leading the People
, a battle scene painted in 1830 by Eugène Delacroix (1798–1863) and now in the Musée du Louvre, Paris. Equally representative are the trenchant pictures of modern urban life seen in caricatures by Honoré Daumier (1808–1879) that appeared in the Parisian daily press. Also characteristic are the paintings of Théodore Rousseau, who, parallel to Camille Corot (1796–1875), played a crucial role in the elevation of landscape subjects as an independent genre of painting in the decades before Impressionism. The critic Paul Mantz (1821–1895) wrote of Rousseau in 1867 that “He is Europe’s leading landscapist, and, because of this, landscape, which was formerly considered a secondary genre, is ranked on a par with history painting.”
In 1830, Rousseau undertook an extended sketching expedition to the Auvergne region of central France. The experience had a liberating effect on the eighteen-year-old painter, who effectively declared independence from the academic strictures of his artistic education. He was soon embraced by the better established painter Ary Scheffer (1795–1858), who displayed the unknown artist’s works in his studio and introduced him to his circle of artists and patrons, including Ferdinand-Philippe, Duc d’Orléans (1810–1842), eldest son of King Louis-Philippe (r. 1830–48). The latter’s regime, known as the July Monarchy, came into power following the Revolution of 1830, the very subject commemorated by Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People
Rousseau’s preference in art was for seventeenth-century Dutch landscapes and recent British painters, notably John Constable, but his work was directly inspired by his travels through the French countryside. He was alternately hailed and reviled for an aesthetic that avoided the idiom of classicizing idealization in favor of a more direct naturalism. (For a characteristic example of the former mode by Jean-Victor Bertin, see The Met 2003.42.3
.) In 1831, Rousseau’s first submission to the official state-sponsored exhibition held annually in Paris, known as the Salon, was accepted. After that date, however, and despite royal patronage of Rousseau, the Salon jury was arbitrary in its judgment of his pictures. Frustrated, Rousseau ceased to participate in the Salon after 1841, resuming only in 1849, after the Revolution of 1848 introduced sweeping changes to the make-up of the jury. By the mid-1840s, Rousseau was known popularly as le grand refusé
. Apart from the older Scheffer, his two closest companions during this first phase of his career were fellow landscape painter Jules Dupré (1811–1889) and socialist art critic Théophile Thoré (1807–1869).
Rousseau maintained a studio in Paris throughout his life. From boyhood he sketched in the surrounding country and nearby parks. Some of his earliest known drawings date to 1825, when he spent several months in his father’s native Franche-Comté, a rural region of eastern France (most often associated with the painter Gustave Courbet, who was born there in 1819). By 1828 or 1829, Rousseau had visited the Forest of Fontainebleau, some thirty miles south of Paris, then growing in appeal as a destination for landscape painters because of its varied terrain, groves of immense ancient oak trees, and proximity to the capital. Beginning in 1836, following a particularly bitter rejection by the Salon jury, Rousseau made ever more lengthy visits there, and, in 1847, he rented a cottage in the village of Barbizon. He kept a second studio there for the rest of his life.
Barbizon was an epicenter of artistic activity, becoming synonymous with landscape painting by mid-century, with Rousseau as its unofficial leader. Other prominent artists associated with the so-called Barbizon School, in addition to Dupré, were Corot, Charles-François Daubigny, Narcisse-Virgile Diaz de la Peña, Charles Jacque, Constant Troyon, and, most significantly for Rousseau from 1849 onward, Jean-François Millet. Their immersive connection with nature and daily life in the countryside were largely responsible for bringing these subjects to the attention of the Parisian art world: the young Claude Monet painted The Bodmer Oak, Fontainebleau Forest
(The Met 64.210
) in 1865, when Rousseau was still active. Depictions of the natural world eventually found their place on the walls of urban interiors, and, in this way, images of nature and agrarian life joined historical subjects as pictorial antidotes to life in the modern city.
The rise of landscape painting is one of the defining developments in nineteenth-century French art, culminating in the aesthetic and representational breakthroughs of Monet, Cézanne, and Van Gogh. Toward the middle of the century, the cult of nature was coming into its own as an alternative pole to faith in the notion of progress as predicated on the benefits of commerce, industrialization, and urbanization. Rousseau’s commitment to exhibiting at the Salon of 1849 and afterward—he was represented by major displays at the Universal Expositions of 1855 and 1867—affirmed his reputation. His stature only increased after his death in late 1867. His work was widely collected in the United States during the so-called Gilded Age from the end of the Civil War (1861–65) until World War I (1914–18), and, for this reason, Rousseau is well represented in American museums today.The Painting:
This monumental forest scene was begun about 1846, when Rousseau was thirty-four. It remained unfinished at the time of his death at the age of fifty-five, in 1867. At over five feet high by eight-and-one-half feet wide, The Forest in Winter at Sunset
is among the largest pure landscape paintings executed in France in the first half of the nineteenth century. According to the account given by the artist’s biographer Alfred Sensier (1872), Rousseau’s intention was to recreate the effect of a December sunset he had seen in Bas-Bréau, a section of Fontainebleau forest. Its size is a function of its subject, a vision of the rhythms of nature and its natural processes. In this painting, natural history supplants traditional narratives framed around the acts of humans.
The setting is a clearing in a grove of massive oak trees. Their enormity, gnarled shapes, and densely entangled branches signify their antiquity. A boulder in the foreground is the first of three strewn in recession that demarcate the left side of the open space. The rocks are balanced on the right by the base of a blasted tree that remains rooted to the soil. In the middleground is a small pond reflecting the red and yellow hues of the setting sun. This intense light penetrates the web of trees, denuded of foliage, that span the canvas. Rousseau applied his paints in broad, vigorous strokes that call attention to the physical process that brought the picture into being. Some observers have responded to its facture—visible evidence of painting, scraping away, and repainting—as an evocation of the processes of nature enacted by Rousseau in communion with his subject. The painting does convey a sense of awe before nature, which is amplified by the presence of two stooped peasants—firewood gatherers—at the center. Their story appears subsumed into the environmental rhythms that govern their existence, defined by lifecycles, seasons, times of day, and so on. Owing to The Forest in Winter
’s great size, the effect of any one element of the picture in combination with the others is strengthened by the experience of standing before it.
Although considered unfinished, the work is signed. This anomaly has not been explained satisfactorily, even though comparable examples exist, including another painting in the Museum’s collection, Sunset near Arbonne
(The Met 25.110.4
The forest of Fontainebleau had been a royal domain since the tenth century. A castle existed there in the Middle Ages, which King François I (r. 1515–47) replaced with a hunting lodge that would be enlarged into the nineteenth century. The forest was maintained by royal prerogative for hunting, the exploitation of its timber and stone, and use by peasants in neighboring villages. Rousseau was opposed to the harvesting of ancient trees, some of them hundreds of years old, and he lobbied the government for their protection. The forest was within striking distance of Paris, not only for painters but also for day-trippers seeking respite from the city, especially after the train line was extended to Barbizon in 1849. By then, a map catering to this market, originally issued in 1839, had become a common accessory for many visitors. Bas-Bréau was a region of the forest well known to artists for its ancient oaks. Corot, for example, had painted there in 1832 and 1833; an immediate product of these visits was the study Fontainebleau: Oak Trees at Bas-Bréau
(The Met 1979.404
), which he later adopted for use in the magisterial historical landscape Hagar in the Wilderness
(The Met 38.64
), exhibited at the Salon of 1836.
There are no recorded statements by Rousseau about The Forest in Winter at Sunset
, and just three written references to it by others dating to his lifetime. There is no firm indication that the artist worked on the picture in his Paris or Barbizon studios. His correspondence suggests that he intended to exhibit it at the annual Paris Salon, but he never did—nor did he do so at the Universal Expositions of 1855 or 1867. He also thought about selling the painting to the French state, but that did not happen. Despite the paucity of concrete information about the painting’s inception, its scale and the circumstances surrounding its genesis leave no doubt that it was a work of immense ambition marking a period of transition for the artist.The Painting's First Mention, December 26, 1847: The Forest in Winter at Sunset
was mentioned for the first time in the progressive Parisian weekly L’Artiste
on December 26, 1847, in the same breath as another painting by Rousseau, An Avenue in the Forest of Isle-Adam
(discussed below; see fig. 3 above). Toward the end of a chatty chronicle of goings-on in the Paris art world, Théophile Thoré wrote: “His latest painting depicts an avenue in the forest with a vigorous effect of light, for M. Baroilhet [sic]. He has [also] begun a large canvas of ten feet [sic], a forest interior—Bas-Bréau, if you will—a reminiscence of Fontainebleau, at the edge of the wood where there still survive a few of those poor oaks slaughtered every day.”
That is all Thoré said about either picture, but what he wrote next provides a glimpse of the broader context in which Rousseau undertook The Forest in Winter
. After continuing with news of Rousseau’s compatriot Jules Dupré, Thoré proceeded to name other artists, employing a lighthearted dismissiveness about them that signals impatience to arrive at a larger point. Ultimately, Thoré’s recitation serves as a pretext to lament the number and stature of artists not represented in the annual Salon, and to explain this state of affairs:
“And M. Ary Scheffer, whom we did not see last year? And M. Meissonnier, whom we have not seen since 1845? But you didn’t see Decamps last year, either. And you haven’t seen Barye, Rousseau, or Dupré for a quite a long time; and perhaps one won’t see them at the Louvre again at all, not them and not Delacroix or M. Ingres or any other men of talent and character. Why should our great artists subject themselves to the capriciousness of the Academy? At the Salon of 1767, there was nothing by Boucher, nor by Latour or Greuze, and Diderot explains why: ‘For their part, they grew weary of exposing themselves to beasts and being torn apart.’”
Taken as a whole, the text sheds light on what hung in the balance at this juncture of Rousseau’s career. He had not exhibited at the Paris Salon since 1835. Although he had recently exhibited selectively elsewhere (this will be addressed below), he was missed where he was needed most: among the leading French artists of his time in their premier showcase. For Thoré’s readers, the existence of a large-scale painting by Rousseau in the works begged the question of where it was destined to be seen, and when.Origins, 1845–47:
It is difficult to gauge how much progress Rousseau had made on The Forest in Winter
by late December 1847, when Thoré first mentioned it. The catalogue of Rousseau’s estate sale states that it was begun in 1845, and all scholars have placed its origins between that year and 1847. The artist’s biographer, Alfred Sensier, described how Rousseau and Dupré, as close as they ever would be during this period, were, by October 1845, sharing an atelier built for them in the home of Dupré’s brother-in-law, a Monsieur Mellet, twenty miles north of Paris at Isle-Adam, a town on the Oise River. Sensier gave a detailed account of three easel-sized paintings resulting from the sojourn that would play an important role in Rousseau’s reemergence in the following years, when The Forest in Winter
was taking shape. The first, Hoarfrost
(fig. 1), was painted in eight days before year’s end. The second, Edge of the Forest, Sun Setting
(fig. 2), is thought to have been started before the end of the year and set aside for one month, at Dupré’s suggestion, before Rousseau looked at it afresh and declared it complete. After a break to attend to business in Paris in early 1846, Rousseau returned to Isle-Adam, taking his own, less cramped studio across the road from Dupré. In the spring he began the third painting, An Avenue in the Forest of Isle-Adam
(fig. 3). This last work is the same one mentioned above, which Thoré would cite together with The Forest in Winter
in December 1847.
Like Thoré before him, when Sensier wrote his account he moved directly from An Avenue in the Forest of Isle-Adam
to The Forest in Winter
: “Isle-Adam was also where Rousseau began one of his greatest compositions, A Forest in Winter at Sunset
, a large canvas of ten feet [sic], which gives the striking impression of a vast grove of oaks seen on a December evening, at the moment when a waning sun in the midst of clouds sets behind the earth and revives the trees, ground, and plants buried in frost. This painting, a memory of Bas-Bréau, is a more lifelike portrait of this heroic country than any study made [directly] from nature.” Sensier continues: “In it, Rousseau accumulated multitudes of forest forms, generations of trees which embrace and loom up in frenzied silhouettes, without becoming confused or obscuring each other; one might say they are like irritated people metamorphosed into trees, who do not wait for the magic wand of some enchanter to cry out terribly in deliverance. If ever a forest had a voice about to explode into a mysterious choir, it’s Rousseau’s Forest in Winter
. . . .”
Sensier’s telling rings of having been tacked on to relatively detailed accounts of the three preceding paintings. It closely echoes Thoré’s version, although it was presumably the result of conversations with Rousseau himself. In the absence of additional factual information, Sensier provides an extended elegy to the painting. His text may be reliable, but, if it is, then it still raises questions that cannot be answered entirely satisfactorily. The composition is, indeed, based on studies made from nature. None of these studies is dated, however, and it is possible that the earliest of them was executed prior to 1845. It seems unlikely that Rousseau would have traveled fifty miles to the Forest of Fontainebleau while staying at Isle-Adam in December 1845, and, although his movements are not as well documented as one would hope, he very likely was there during the winter in the years immediately preceding 1845.Related Works:
Rousseau habitually approached his paintings carefully, developing his compositions through the traditional stages of preparatory studies, although his methods varied. Extant studies for The Forest in Winter
indicate that most of their major features found a place in The Met’s picture. The earliest known study is a recently rediscovered graphite and chalk drawing that Rousseau either made directly from nature or carefully copied from a lost drawing that he previously made (fig. 4); it shows the principal oak tree in the center, the pond, and the twisted stump in the middle ground beyond. It was followed by an oil study of essentially the same dimensions (fig. 5) and a drawing double its size (fig. 6); both works replicate virtually every detail of the first sheet with extraordinary fidelity. Through the additions of ochre and white touches, the oil study enabled Rousseau to investigate not only tonal contrasts but the mapping of light as it penetrated the trees.
The composition as elaborated in the studies was expanded laterally for the final painting. At their left margins, the studies terminate with the large forked-top tree that is second from the left in the painting. At their right margins, the studies terminate with the pair of trees whose zig-zagging branches intertwine; in the painting, the shapes of those trees were modified and the composition extended to accommodate another, larger tree, nearer to the picture plane. There is more sky showing in the studies; that less sky shows in the painting gives it more of a sense of foreboding, which is all the more powerful owing to the immersive effect on the viewer who stands before the immense canvas.
There is also a closely related panel painting (fig. 7). It is more sketchlike than the studies just mentioned. If its function was preparatory, then Rousseau took liberties with the template established by the preceding studies. He extended the composition at the left and right sides, although he did not include all the elements found in the same areas of The Met’s picture. One may surmise that the artist’s intention in this work was to explore the expressive potential of the subject in paint before committing to the large canvas. One feature of the panel picture that differs appreciably from the finished work is the inclusion of frost or a light coating of snow, evidence of inclement weather prior to the sunset. If this element was included in an earlier state of The Met's picture, then it was ultimately rejected. Does the panel represent an earlier stage of Rousseau’s conception of the picture? One that was intended, if only temporarily, to stand alone? Or is it an alternate solution, painted after the large canvas was underway? It does bear characteristics of a modello
, or model, complete in its essential details, rather than a working sketch whose details remain to be worked out at a later stage of the creative process.
For further information about the material process Rousseau employed in The Forest in Winter
, see the Technical Notes by Charlotte Hale that complement the present entry.Works of Comparable Size:
Whatever the role of the small panel (fig. 7) in composing The Forest in Winter
, Rousseau’s approach was markedly different than the ones he employed a decade earlier for two other, similarly large pictures. The first, begun in 1834, is Mont Blanc Seen from La Faucille, Storm Effect
, painted in a high Romantic style that may have seemed obsolete by the mid-40s (Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen, inv. MIN1783). In a sense, the artist completed it when he took up the subject anew in his late style, in the considerably smaller View of Mont Blanc, Seen from La Faucille
(ca. 1863–67, Minneapolis Institute of Art, 2010.62). The second is Descent of the Cattle in the Jura
, submitted unsuccessfully to the Salon of 1836 (Mesdag Museum, The Hague, inv. 286). For that picture, Rousseau had produced a full-size sketch (Musée de Picardie, Amiens, inv. 4371) comparable to the full-sized oil sketches that Constable had produced for his celebrated series of six-foot paintings. The trajectory traced by the development of Forest in Winter
contrasts with that of the two earlier projects. Perhaps one factor in the deviation of his working process in The Met’s picture was that by 1845–46 Rousseau had spent increasing amounts of time in the forest of Fontainbleau for well over a decade; he knew this subject far more intimately than the earlier ones.Setting the Stage for The Forest in Winter, 1845–46:
Under the July Monarchy, the Salon jury was composed exclusively of members of the Institut de France, who wielded incontestible authority. Despite advice from Scheffer that exposure at the Salon was necessary to advance his career, Rousseau chose not to participate from 1841 onward. Since the 1830s he had been able to cultivate a few private patrons, in part by nurturing his image as an outsider, but options for exhibiting remained few.
An opportunity arose in 1845, following the appointment of Pierre-Martinien Tousez (1799–1862), a well-known actor with liberal political leanings known as Bocage, as director of the prestigious Théâtre de l’Odéon in Paris. Bocage conceived an exhibition of paintings to take place in the theatre’s foyer, inviting the participation not only of artists who had been rejected by the Salon but also writers. Exhibitors included, among others, Corot, Delacroix, Diaz de la Peña, Théodore Chassériau, François-Marius Granet, and Eugène Isabey. The earliest reference to the Odéon exhibition was a cursory review by Théophile Gautier that appeared in the daily La Presse
on November 17, 1845, which merely mentioned Rousseau by name.
Thoré published a more detailed review in Le Constitutionnel
on January 2, 1846. Noting that, “Owing to limited space, the little foyer of the Odéon, newly decorated, can only accommodate canvases of small size,” he described the single picture by Rousseau as follows: “The landscape by M. Rousseau shows the effect of evening and a storm, in winter, in the forest of Fontainebleau. It is one of his most poetic and original compositions. Rousseau’s painting is so particularly and frankly felt that it owes nothing to any past master, except perhaps Rembrandt and Hobbema in some ways. Here, the vigorous tone of the ground, the violence of the effect, and the melancholy of the place [in this work] come close to the rare and admirable landscapes of Rembrandt.”
No painting by Rousseau is documented as the one exhibited at the Odéon in 1845–46, and scholars have declined to identify it. Given the stakes for Rousseau in fall 1845, however, the identity of the work is critical to understanding his re-entry into the public sphere as an exhibiting artist. And given Thoré’s description of the picture, the painting’s size relative to modestly-scaled works by other artists included in the exhibition, the timing of Rousseau’s arrival at Isle-Adam in relation to the exhibition opening, and Rousseau’s subsequent development of the composition, it is reasonable to consider whether the sketch in question could be the panel painting presently in the Christoph Heilmann Stiftung (fig. 7). This is a fragile hypothesis, but if proven correct, then it would contribute concretely to our understanding of The Forest in Winter
’s origins. Whatever the identity of the work exhibited at the Odéon, it must have represented a step in the direction of The Met’s picture.
Anticipation of Rousseau’s return to the public arena was growing in the mid-1840s, and Thoré was not alone in regretting his absence from the Salon. In 1845, in his debut Salon review, Charles Baudelaire had begun a section on landscape painting as follows: “At the head of the modern school of landscape stands M. Corot. [But] if M. Théodore Rousseau were to exhibit, [then] his supremacy would be in some doubt, for to naïveté, an originality with which they are at least equal, M. Rousseau adds greater charm and a greater sureness of execution.” In his review of the Salon of 1846, whose undisputed champion was, for Baudelaire, Delacroix, the critic wrote: “There is one man who, more than all of these [landscape painters], and more even than the most celebrated absentees, seems to me to fulfill the conditions of beauty in landscape: he is a man but little known to the multitude, for past setbacks and underhand plotting have combined together to keep him away from the Salon. You will already have guessed that I am referring to M. Rousseau—and it seems to me to be high time that he took his bow once again before a public which, thanks to the efforts of other painters, has gradually become familiar with new aspects of landscape.” Baudelaire continued: “It is as difficult to interpret M. Rousseau’s talent in words as it is to interpret that of Delacroix, with whom he has other affinities also [. . .] Like Delacroix, he adds much of his soul to the mixture; he is a naturalist, ceaselessly swept towards the ideal."Where The Forest in Winter Was Painted and Questions Concerning Rousseau’s Studios:
In 1846, Rousseau moved his Paris studio from Avenue Frochot to 77 Rue Pigalle. This may have occurred about April 1, a traditional moving day. The painter seems to have maintained his studio in Isle-Adam until perhaps June 1847, and moved his country studio to Barbizon in fall 1847.
Changes of address are probably not incidental in the context of The Forest in Winter
. What evidence there is points to the likelihood that the composition was in development before the studio moves. Did Rousseau begin work on The Met’s large canvas in one studio and then transport it to another? Or did he inaugurate one of his new studios with a fresh canvas on which to execute the composition? In the latter scenario, was this in Paris or Barbizon? Thoré did not specify in the article published in L’Artiste
on December 26, 1847, quoted earlier. But the trip between Paris to Barbizon could be made quickly, as attested by Thoré’s description of an overnight hike in the forest of Fontainebleau with Rousseau one month earlier, in November 1847 (see below).Artistic Ambition, “Peer Pressure,” and the French State:
As expressed by Thoré in L’Artiste
, by late 1847 a range of artists felt frustrated by the Salon. The jury had rejected more than half the submissions to the Salon that opened on March 16, inciting calls for reform from many quarters. A measure of relief came from an independently organized exhibition held at a prestigious new venue, the lavish department store Bazar Bonne-Nouvelle, where Rousseau showed four paintings in 1847, including Paysage d’automne
, known today as Under the Birches, Evening
(fig. 8), and possibly Edge of the Forest, Sun Setting
(fig. 2). The exhibition drew more positive press for Rousseau. Real change arrived the following year, with loosened restrictions governing the Salon after the Revolution of 1848. In 1849 Rousseau showed three paintings in the official exhibition for the first time in some fifteen years: Edge of the Forest, Sun Setting
(fig. 2), An Avenue in the Forest at Isle-Adam
(fig. 3), and another entitled Terrains d’automne
. The Forest in Winter
was held back. But the pictures by Rousseau that were on display are germane here. At this turning point in Rousseau’s career, at least two of the three works originated in essentially the same extended moment (1845–47) as the large picture.
Rousseau’s re-emergence as an exhibiting artist coincided with the appearance of high-profile works by his peers resulting from another source: state commissions. In these years, Delacroix and Corot in particular were engaged in projects that may well have prompted their friend Rousseau to consider an ambitious strategy to catalyze interest in his work. On December 17, 1846, Delacroix wrote to Rousseau, inviting him to meet the day after next at Thoré’s apartment, and to bring Dupré along if possible, for a group visit to the Palais de Luxembourg. There, Delacroix would offer a tour of the just-completed decorations in the Peers’ Library, on which he had been laboring since 1841. One year later, on December 21, 1847, Delacroix invited friends to view another important public commission, this one in the Deputies’ Library of the Palais Bourbon, on which he had been working since 1838; one of the paintings, Orpheus Civilizes the Greeks and Teaches Them the Arts of Peace
, features a landscape that he had composed with particular deliberation (fig. 9). Also in 1847, in fulfillment of his first and only state commission, Corot completed the nearly thirteen-foot-tall historical landscape The Baptism of Christ
for the Church of Saint-Nicolas-du-Chardonnet (fig. 10). Landscape on a grand scale was gaining allure at the very time that The Forest in Winter
was taking shape, and it was assuming a position of newfound significance relative to historical, or narrative, content.
The attention generated by these projects—conversations surrounding them and critical reactions to the landscapes—must have gained Rousseau's notice as he was seeking a way forward. The terms of the praise they received—Delacroix’s Orpheus
was compared to Titian and Watteau—could not have been lost on Rousseau. The reader will recall that Thoré’s first description of The Forest in Winter
was published in L’Artiste
on December 26, 1847. Thoré had visited Rousseau in Barbizon the prior November, which he described in an earlier article, “Par monts et par bois: La forêt de Fontainebleau” (or “Through Hills and through Woods: The Forest of Fontainebleau”). This piece, published in consecutive issues of Le Constitutionnel
on November 27 and 28, 1847, describes an extraordinary overnight hike with Rousseau—who is characterized as an outdoorsman first and painter second. It is a work of prose ravishing in its evocation of naturalistic details and its expression of communion with Rousseau and with nature. Its treatment of its subject does not so much mention painting as prepare the way for it. Its scope is equal to The Forest in Winter at Sunset
, which may have been Thoré’s intent, and as such it can be considered a work demonstrating the Latin dictum ut pictura poesis
(“as is painting so is poetry”). Thoré would mention the painting for the first time one month later.
In “Par monts et par bois,” almost as if anticipating the poetics of criticism inspired by Delacroix’s Orpheus
, Thoré wrote: “Since the sixteenth century, landscape has disappeared from so-called history painting. During the Renaissance, Correggio, Titian and the great masters made no secret of this magnificent setting for history. Since then, painters have split into two categories, indifferent to one another, painters of nature and painters of man. A great revolution to try would be that of the indissoluble alliance of the microcosm [the part] and the macrocosm [the whole], as the Germans would say, of the reintegration of man into his inalienable domain.”
In 1847, the Academy of Fine Arts still held sway, and history painting retained its traditional position at the apex of the hierarchy of genres. Yet the growing stature of landscape painting was imposing itself on convention. Had it been completed and exhibited, The Forest in Winter
would undoubtedly have contributed to the debate. As a pure landscape, devoid of narrative other than the one determined by nature itself, there was little if any precedent in French art for a painting of its size. This is one reason why its state of unfinish is intriguing.The Forest in Winter in the Artist’s Possession, ca. 1846–67:
It has become commonplace to think about The Forest in Winter
as Rousseau’s equivalent of the fictional painter Frenhofer’s “unknown masterpiece” in Honoré Balzac’s 1831 short story Le Chef-d’oeuvre inconnu
: a work without end, an obsession, unable to be finished. The artist himself never considered it finished. Yet, at an unknown date, he signed it, as he did other paintings left in a similar state; in fact, he signed it twice. In the years after 1849, Rousseau exhibited regularly at the Salon, including his displays at the Universal Expositions in 1855 and 1867, but he did not show The Forest in Winter
. It was mentioned only two times in the period after Thoré’s article of December 1847 and before Rousseau’s death in 1867.
In a letter of 1852 or 1853, Millet urged Rousseau to complete the painting. He wrote: “Have you finished your pictures? You have no more than a month to do your forest and it is highly important that this painting be in the Salon. It absolutely must be there.” On the evidence of this statement, the painting was considered by one of Rousseau’s closest associates to be within a month of completion.
Finally, the Alsatian industrialist and collector Frédéric Hartmann (1822–1880) wrote to the artist on April 15, 1859: “It seems to me that your large Forest, which you intend for the government, is advanced enough that M. de Newerkerke [sic] can give you an advance on that painting.” Rousseau must have discussed plans to sell The Forest in Winter
to the state among close associates, though no further documentation has come to light. Comte Émilien de Nieuwerkerke (1811–1892) was a high-level civil servant responsible for cultural affairs in the government of Emperor Napoleon III (r. 1852–70).
It is not possible to say whether and how often Rousseau worked on the canvas after his initial campaign, though the process of bringing it into being is discussed in the Technical Notes.Posthumous Legacy: The Forest in Winter at Sunset
was displayed publicly for the first time in the preview of the Rousseau estate sale, in 1868. The Parisian dealer Paul Durand-Ruel bought it for ten thousand francs, more than double the price of the next two most expensive works combined. In 1892, it was purchased by Peter Arrell Browne Widener (1834–1915), one of the richest men in the United States, for his mansion in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, a Philadelphia suburb. The picture was placed on view before the general public for the first time when Widener presented it as a gift to The Met in 1911. The painting has left the Museum only once, on the occasion of the exhibition marking the centennial of Rousseau’s death, held at the Louvre in 1967–68. Impressive in size and perennially on view, it has been greatly admired by the public but often overlooked by scholars. The painting’s colors are dense and somewhat dark, but conservation treatment undertaken by The Met between 2009 and 2011 greatly increased its legibility, enabling visitors to the galleries to appreciate it anew.
Asher Miller 2020
I am grateful to those individuals who very generously offered their time, thoughts, and resources during the writing of this entry, including Scott Allan, Claudia Denk, Michèle Hannoosh, Patricia Mainardi, Tal Nadan, Jill Newhouse, Christa Savino, Greg Thomas, Wheelock Whitney, and especially Simon Kelly, who graciously provided a partial manuscript of his book Théodore Rousseau and the Rise of the Modern Art Market: An Avant-Garde Landscape Painter in 19th-Century France
, forthcoming as of November 2020, and published in 2021 (see References). I also wish to thank my Met colleagues Charlotte Hale and Jane Becker. Translations are by the author unless otherwise noted. The most frequently utilized source for the early histories of paintings of the 1840s illustrated here is Scott Allan, Edouard Kopp, and Line Clausen Pedersen, Unruly Nature: The Landscapes of Théodore Rousseau
, exh. cat. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2016).
 Victor Hugo (1802–1885) employed the phrase "hommes de 1830
" as a form of address to readers of his first novel, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame
, which was first published in French as Notre-Dame de Paris
by Charles Gosselin, Paris, in 1831; see vol. 1, p. 8. The contemporary relevance of Delacroix’s subject is in keeping with the novel’s narrative voice, despite the fact that the story recounted in the book took place in 1482.
 “Il est le premier paysagiste de l’Europe, et du même coup le paysage, qui était autrefois réputé pour un genre secondaire, est placé au même rang que la peinture d’histoire.” Paul Mantz, “Les beaux arts à l’Exposition universelle. XI. France,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts
23 (October 1, 1867), p. 326. Translated by Edouard Kopp, “Facing Criticism: Rousseau and the Salon,” in Allan, Kopp, and Pedersen 2016, pp. 55, 57 n. 103.
 Interpretations vary. Among the most insightful and illuminating are Kelly 1996, Kelly 2021, and Thomas 2000.
 Claude-François Denecourt (1788–1875), Carte indiquant les sites et points de vue remarquables de la Forêt de Fontainebleau
(Fontainebleau: S. Petit, 1839) and subsequent editions.
 “Son dernier tableau est une allée de forêt, avec un vigoureux effet de lumière, pour M. Baroilhet [sic]. Il a commencé une grande toile de dix pieds, un intérieur de forêt, le Bas-Bréau, si l’on veut, un souvenir de Fontainebleau, qui survivra aux pauvres chênes assassinés chaque jour au coin des bois.” Thoré, L’Artiste
, December 26, 1847, p. 127. Thoré’s claim that the canvas measured ten feet across is an estimate or exaggeration. Paul Barroilhet (1810–1871), an opera singer, was an early patron of Rousseau and a prolific collector of contemporary art.
 It is natural that Thoré should move directly from Rousseau to Dupré, as the painters were closely associated at this time. They were neighbors in Paris but no longer neighbors in the country, making it impossible to deduce on this criterion alone whether Thoré saw The Forest in Winter
in Paris or Barbizon.
 “Et M. Ary Scheffer, que nous n’avons pas vu l’année dernière? et [sic] M. Meissonnier, que nous n’avons pas vu depuis 1845? Mais vous n’avez pas vu Decamps non plus l’année dernière. Mais vous n’avez pas vu Barye, Rousseau, Dupré, depuis bien long-temps; et peut-être ne les reverra-t-on plus au Louvre, ni eux, ni Delacroix, ni M. Ingres, ni tous les hommes de talent et caractère. Pourquoi nos grands artistes subiraient-ils toujours les caprices de l’Académie? Au Salon de 1767, il n’y avait rien de Boucher, ni de Latour, ni de Greuze, et Diderot nous explique pourquoi: ‘Ils ont dit pour leurs raisons qu’ils étaient las de s’exposer aux bêtes et d’être déchirés.’” Thoré, L’Artiste
, December 26, 1847, p. 127.
 At the Salon of 1834, Rousseau exhibited Lisière d’un bois coupé, forêt de Compiègne
(Edge of a Cleared Wood, Forest of Compiègne
, or View of the Village of Pierrefonds
) (1833, oil on canvas, 20 ¼ x 29 in. [51.5 x 73.7 cm], Hamburger Kunsthalle, 5507), lent by the Duc d’Orléans, and won a third-class medal. A larger picture, Paysage
, was refused. Two “sketches” were entered into the Salon of 1835 by the collector François-Ferdinand-Philippe-Louis-Marie d’Orléans, Prince de Joinville (1818–1900), third son of King Louis-Philippe, perhaps without Rousseau’s knowledge.
 Dupré introduced Sensier to Rousseau in early 1846. Sensier wrote: “Ils louèrent tous deux [Rousseau and Dupré], place Pigalle, au premier étage d’une maison construite exprès pour des peintres, deux beaux ateliers sur le même carré, avec petits logements y attenants: c’est là que je connus intimement Rousseau que j’avais vu depuis longtemps chez Jules Dupré et à la taverne anglo-française Arrowsmith.” Sensier 1872, pp. 149ff, 157–58. Rousseau and Sensier would become close over the following decade; see Kelly 1996, vol. 1, pp. 90–91.
 It was bought from the artist by one of his earliest patrons, the Parisian collector Paul Périer (1812–1897), and included in his sale, held at 16, rue des Jeuneurs, Paris, December 19, 1846, no. 25, as Effet d’hîver et de soleil couchant
. It was purchased by Jean-Marie-Fortuné Durand, (1800–1865), founder of the art-dealing dynasty Durand-Ruel.
 Its first known owner was the Parisian collector Paul Collot. He was a devoted early supporter of Rousseau and almost certainly bought it directly from him. The painting was included in his collection sale, held at the Hôtel des Ventes Mobilières, Paris, May 29, 1852, as no. 55, where it was purchased by Duc Charles de Morny (1811–1865).
 Sensier 1872, pp. 153–54.
 My translation of this key passage from Sensier 1872 (see References) continues here, followed by the original French for the entire text:“Making his trees speak was his constant thought, and until his death The Forest in Winter
was the work to which he wanted to give all his strength and his most resounding poetry. He sought neither the charm, nor the attraction, nor the peace of woodland and pasture; rather, his goal was to give form to two great powers in their austere grandeur: the majesty of the forests and the domination of light. Rousseau . . . had in him the breath of the great Weber, [and] he knew how to make the spirit and the deities of the woods sing.”
(“L’Isle-Adam fut encore pour Rousseau le lieu où il commença une de ses plus grandes compositions, Une Forêt au soleil couchant en hiver
, grande toile de dix pieds, qui donne une idée frappante d’une vaste futaie de chênes, par un soir de décembre, au moment où le soleil livide au milieu des nuages s’abaisse sur la terre et ranime les arbres, les terrains et jus’qu'aux plantes ensevelies sous la gelée. Cette peinture, un souvenir du Bas-Bréau, est un portrait plus ressemblant de cette héroïque contrée que toutes les études faites d’après nature. Rousseau y a accumulé des multitudes de formes forestières, des générations d'arbres qui s'étreignent et surgissent en silhouettes frénoissantes, sans se confondre et s’annuler; on dirait un peuple irrité métamorphosé en arbres, et qui n’attend que la baguette magique d’un enchanteur pour pousser le cri terrible de la délivrance. Si jamais forêt a eu sa voix prête à éclater dans un choeur mystérieux, c’est la Forêt d’hiver
de Rousseau . . . . Faire parler ses arbres était sa pensée constante, et la Forêt d’hiver
fut jusqu’à sa mort l’œuvre à laquelle il voulait donner toute sa force et toute sa plus retentissante poésie, Il n’y voulait ni le charme, ni l’attraction, ni la paix des bocages, mais il avait pour but de formuler deux grandes puissances dans leur austère grandeur, la majesté des forêts et la domination de la lumière. Rousseau, je lai dit, avait en lui le souffle du grand Weber, il savait faire chanter les esprits de l’air et les divinités des bois.”)
 An excellent account is found in Scott Allan, “‘A Method Matters Little’: Rousseau’s Working Procedures as a Painter,” in Allan, Kopp, and Pedersen 2016, pp. 23–43. Although The Met’s Forest in Winter
is not discussed in Allan’s essay, other works discussed in the present catalogue entry are, namely, Hoarfrost
, Edge of the Forest
, Sun Setting
, and An Avenue in the Forest of Isle-Adam
(see figs. 1–3).
 Other studies that have been linked to The Met’s picture include two entitled Pool in a Clearing
, both ?1845/46, pencil on paper, 3 ½ x 4 ¾ in. (8.8 x 12 cm), Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nancy, inv. 97.3.4–5 (see Kurlander 2014, p. 17); and Trees in a Thicket
(La Mare aux Évées, Forest of Fontainebleau
), ca. 1845, The Met 1976.53
 See Denk 2013.
 Oil on canvas, 56 5/16 x 94 ½ in. (143 x 240 cm). On this work, see Line Clausen Pedersen, “Rousseau’s Storm over Mont Blanc,” in Allan, Kopp, and Pedersen 2016, pp. 81–87.
 Oil on canvas, 36 x 46 5/8 in. (91.4 x 118.4 cm).
 Oil on canvas, 102 x 63 3/4 in. (259 x 162 cm).
 Oil on canvas, 101 7/8 x 65 3/8 in. (258.8 x 166 cm).
 On this subject, see Kelly 1996 and the same author’s “The Landscapes of Théodore Rousseau and their Market,” in Andreas Burmester, Christoph Heilmann, and Michael F. Zimmermann, eds., Barbizon: Malerei der Natur—Natur der Malerei
(Munich, 1999), pp. 419–36. See also Scott Allan, “Rousseau’s Market, 1830–1914,” in Allan, Kopp, and Pedersen 2016, pp. 59–79.
 Théophile Gautier, “Théatres,” La Presse
, November 17, 1845, p. 1.
 “Le petit foyer de l’Odéon, décoré à neuf, n’a pu recevoir, faute d’espace, que des toiles d’une dimension restreinte. Le paysage, de M. Rousseau, est un effet de soir et d’orage, l’hiver, dans la forêt de Fontainebleau. C’est une de ses compositions les plus poétiques et les plus originales. La peinture de Rousseau est si particulière et si franchement sentie, qu’elle ne tient jamais à aucun des maîtres du passé, si ce n’est parfois peut-être à Rembrandt et à Hobbema. Ici, le ton vigoureux des terrains, la violence de l’effet et la mélancolie du site, font singer aux rares et admirables paysages de Rembrandt.” Théophile Thoré, “Exposition de tableaux au Foyer de l’Odéon,” Le Constitutionnel
, January 2–3, 1846, p. 1. Only a handful of works in the exhibition have been identified. In addition to the Chassériau, Apollo and Daphne
(private collection; see Stéphane Guégan in Théodore Chassériau (1819–1856): The Unknown Romantic
, exh. cat. [New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2002], pp. 210–13, no. 113, cf. p. 273, as dated 1846), there were four by Delacroix. These include a finished cabinet picture, Hamlet Sees the Ghost of His Father
(1825/26, whereabouts unknown; possibly lent by Alexandre Dumas père
; see Lee Johnson, The Paintings of Eugène Delacroix
, 7 vols., 1981–2002, vol. 1, pp. 204–5, no. L99), and three sketches: Christ on the Cross, sketch
(1845, Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum, Rotterdam; possibly lent by Dumas père
; see Johnson 1981–2002, vol. 3, pp. 218–19, no. 430, vol. 4, pl. 240), Saint Jerome
(ca. 1843–44, whereabouts unknown, presumably lent by Théophile Gautier; see Johnson 1981–2002, vol. 5, pp. 110–11, no. L225), Mary Magdalen with Angel
(ca. 1843–45, Oskar Reinhart Collection ‘Am Römerholz,’ Winterthur; probably lent by Dumas père
; see Johnson 1981–2002, vol. 3, p. 217, no. 428, vol. 4, pl. 238). Corot showed “plusieurs paysages” (several landscapes).
 Hélène Toussaint (1967) hinted at a connection between the Heilmann sketch (then in the collection of Sir Kenneth Clark, London) and a study owned by Barroilhet, which the singer nicknamed “La Danse des Arbres.” But, based on the probable source for this story, the connection is unfounded (see Sensier 1872, pp. 158–59).
 The Odéon exhibition was “refreshed” in fall 1846, and Rousseau is mentioned as being included, though the work is undescribed. It is not known whether the first exhibit was replaced with a second one. See Théophile Thoré, “Revue des Arts,” Le Constitutionnel
, November 25, 1846, p. 1.
 “À la tête de l’école moderne du paysage, se place M. Corot. — Si M. Théodore Rousseau voulait exposer, la suprématie serait douteuse, M. Théodore Rousseau unissant à une naïveté, à une originalité au moins égales, un plus grand charme et une plus grande sûreté d’exécution.” Charles Baudelaire, “Salon de 1845,” Œuvres complètes de Charles Baudelaire
(Paris, 1868), vol. 2, p. 53; trans. by Jonathan Mayne, ed., Art in Paris, 1845–1862: Salons and Other Exhibitions Reviewed by Charles Baudelaire
(London, 1970), p. 24.
 “Il est un homme qui, plus que tous ceux-là, et même que les plus célèbres absents, remplit, à mon sens, les conditions du beau dans le paysage, un homme peu connu de la foule, et que d’anciens échecs et de sourdes tracasseries ont éloigné du Salon. Il serait temps, ce me semble, que M. Rousseau, — on a déjà deviné que c’était de lui que je voulais parler, — se présentât de nouveau devant le public, que d’autres paysagistes ont habitué peu à peu à des aspects nouveaux. [. . .] Il est aussi difficile de faire comprendre avec des mots le talent de M. Rousseau que celui de Delacroix, avec lequel il a, du reste, quelques rapports [. . . ] Il y mêle beaucoup de son âme, comme Delacroix; c’est un naturaliste entraîné sans cesse vers l’idéal.” “Salon de 1846,” in Baudelaire 1868, vol. 2, p. 181; trans. Mayne 1970, pp. 108–9.
 This could have been the necessary business that interrupted Rousseau’s Isle-Adam sojourn; see Sensier 1872, pp. 153–54 (cf. n. 12, above).
 Parisian leases typically began on the first day of January, April, July or October. See M. Bugnet, Œuvres de Pothier annotées et mises en corrélation avec le code civil et la législation actuelle
(Paris, 1847), p. 15.
 Sensier 1872, p. 170.
 On February 15, 1847, a meeting was convened at the atelier of Antoine-Louis Barye to advance articles of incorporation for a new, independent exhibition society; those present included Honoré Daumier, Decamps, Dupré, Charles Jacque, Meissonier, Rousseau, and Scheffer. (Delacroix was encouraged to participate but he did not.) In the end, the society did not take shape.
 Located at 18–20 boulevard de Bonne-Nouvelle, the building was completely destroyed by fire in 1899. The exhibition was organized by the Association des Artistes Peintres, Sculpteurs, Architectes, Graveurs et Dessinateurs, which had been organized by Baron Taylor (1789–1879) in December 1844, and which survives today as the Fondation Taylor.
 The framed dimensions were recorded as 55 x 70 cm in the Registre du Salon
(Archives du Musée du Louvre, Paris).
 The original letter is in the New York Public Library, Pierre F. Simon Collection, MssCol 6123; it was misdated October 17, 1846, by Pierre Miquel (Le Paysage français au XIXe siècle
, vol. 3, 1824–1874
[Maurs-la-jolie, 1975], p. 446).
 On March 14, 1847, Delacroix recounted a visit to Corot’s studio, where he deeply admired The Baptism of Christ
and sought advice on the tree he was then painting in Orpheus
. Eugène Delacroix, Journal
, 2 vols., Michèle Hannoosh, ed. (Paris, 2009), vol. 1, p. 365.
 See Louis Clément de Ris, “La Bibliothèque et le Salon de la Paix [sic] à la Chambre de Députés,” L’Artiste
, 4th ser, vol. 2 (January 9, 1848), p. 155; and Prosper Haussard, “Peintures de M. Eugène Delacroix au Palais législatif et au Palais du Luxembourg,” part 1, Le National
, October 18, 1850 (excerpts quoted in Johnson 1981–2002, vol. 5, pp. 58–59).
37] “Depuis le XVIe siècle, le paysage a disparu de la peinture dite historique. A la Renaissance, Corrège, Titien et les grands maîtres ne dissimulaient point ce cadre magnifique de l’histoire. Depuis, les peintres se sont fractionnés en deux catégories indifférantes l’une à l’autre, les peintres de la nature et les peintres de l’homme. Une belle révolution à tenter serait celle de l’alliance indissoluble du microcosme et du macrocosme, diraient les Allemands, de la réintégration de l’homme dans son domaine inaliénable.” Théophile Thoré, “Par monts et par bois: La forêt de Fontainebleau,” part 2, Le Constitutionnel
, November 28, 1847, p. 2.
 ”Avez-vous terminé vos tableaux? C’est que vous n’avez plus qu’un mois pour faire votre forêt et il est très important que ce tableau soit au Salon: il faut absolument qu’il y soit.” Alfred Sensier, La Vie et l'œuvre de J.-F. Millet
(Paris, 1881), p. 148. Simon Kelly, noting that the letter is dated 1852 by the Louvre, where it is held, points to the likelihood that Millet was expressing his wish that Rousseau capitalize on momentum gained through his ambitious display at the Salon of 1850–51, especially under the new, more accommodating administration (email to the author, April 20, 2020). There are arguments in favor of an 1853 dating as well. The jury of the Salon of 1853 began its review of submissions in the middle of April, and the Salon opened on May 15, 1853. Millet exhibited three works, all now in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: Harvesters Resting (Ruth and Boaz)
(06.2421); Shearing Sheep (Une tendeuse de moutons)
(17.1489); and Shepherd and Flock at the Edge of the Forest, Evening (Un berger, effet du soir)
was the most outstanding picture, but the two smaller ones were both evening scenes, with Shepherd and Flock
being close in mood to Rousseau’s Forest in Winter
. With respect to Millet’s encouragement of Rousseau to complete Forest in Winter
for the Salon of 1853, Millet may have been thinking strategically, that is, of the painting’s prospective display as a suitable follow-up to Rousseau’s having been made a chevalier of the Legion of Honor the previous July, and as a means of affording the state an opportunity to purchase the work.
 See Toussaint 1967; excerpt published and translated in Thomas 2000, p. 259 n. 126.