Description: French School (19th century), River Landscape with Figure and Cow, oil on canvas, bears signature ‘T. H. Rousseau” lower left, canvas: 11″h x 14″w, overall (with frame): 19″h x 22″w.
Provenance: Bonhams “SoMa”
Étienne Pierre Théodore Rousseau (April 15, 1812 – December 22, 1867) was a French painter of the Barbizon school.
He had exhibited six works in the Salons of 1831, 1833, 1834 and 1835, but in 1836 his great work Paysage du Jura [La descente des vaches] was rejected by the Salon jury. He sent a total of eight further works to the Salon between 1836 and 1841; and yet none of them were accepted. Thereafter, he ceased sending work to the Salon until 1849, when all three of his submissions were accepted. He was not without champions in the press, and with the title of “le grand refusé” he became known through the writings of his friend Théophile Thoré, the critic who afterwards resided in England and wrote using the name Burger.
During these years of artistic exile Rousseau produced some of his best pictures: “The Chestnut Avenue”, “The Marsh in the Landes” (now in the Louvre), “Hoar-Frost” (now in America); and in 1851, after the reorganization of the Salon in 1848, he exhibited his masterpiece, “The Edge of the Forest” (also in the Louvre), a picture similar in treatment to, but slightly varied in subject from, the composition called “A Glade in the Forest of Fontainebleau”, in the Wallace Collection at Hertford House, London.
At the Exposition Universelle of 1853, where all Rousseau’s rejected pictures of the previous twenty years were gathered together, his works were acknowledged to form one of the best of the many splendid groups there exhibited. But, after an unsuccessful sale of his works by auction in 1861, he contemplated leaving Paris for Amsterdam or London, or even New York.
Rousseau’s pictures are always grave in character, with an air of exquisite melancholy. They are well finished when they profess to be completed pictures, but Rousseau spent so much time developing his subjects that his absolutely completed works are comparatively few. He left many canvases with parts of the picture realized in detail and with the remainder somewhat vague; and also a good number of sketches and water-color drawings. His pen work in monochrome on paper is rare. There are a number of good pictures by him in the Louvre, and the Wallace collection contains one of his most important Barbizon pictures. There is also an example in the Ionides collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.