Towards Impressionism: Landscape Painting from Corot to Monet

Exhibition Website

Jan 20 2018 - Apr 8 2018


The Musée des Beaux Arts in Reims owns one of the largest collections of French 19th century landscape paintings, forty-five of which will be displayed in this exhibition. Towards Impressionism marks the first time that an exhibition drawn exclusively from the Reims Museum will travel to the United States. [....] The exhibition traces the revolutionary evolution of landscape painting in France from the romantics to the School of Barbizon, the circle of Honfleur, and up to Impressionism.

The Barbizon painters, who found their major inspiration in Dutch landscape art, were active roughly from 1830 until 1870. Their name derives from the village of Barbizon, on the edge of the Fontainebleau forest, where artists like Théodore Rousseau, Camille Corot, Charles-François Daubigny, Henri-Jospeh Harpignies, Narcisse Virgilio Diaz de la Peña, Jean-François Millet and others gathered, usually at the Auberge Ganne. These artists rejected urban life and burgeoning industrialization, seeking untouched nature in its original form. They were fascinated by the mysteries of the forest and the rural tradition later described by George Sand in her ‘Pastoral Novels’. Théodore Rousseau (1812-1867) was a friend of the novelist and acted as the leader of the Barbizon School. Rousseau rebelled against official art teaching, adopting thickly applied paint in contrast to the smooth surfaces to be seen in academic paintings.

One of the most significant painters involved with the Barbizon School is Camille Corot (1796-1875). Reims is proud to possess the second largest collection of his work after the Louvre: 25 authenticated works, some of which will be displayed in this exhibition.

‘The Fountain at Villa Medici’ (1825 -28) (above) was painted during Corot’s first trip to Italy in 1825. On his arrival in Rome he was immediately dazzled by the southern light that was to become one of the principal subjects of his work. Corot never forgot these formative years, idealizing the landscapes he had studied in the open air as he recreated them later in his studio, such as ‘Souvenir du Lac d’Albano’ (before 1862). Later works herald impressionism, reminding the visitor that Corot was interested in the ever changing flow of time and atmospheric effects, painting the same motif at different times of day.

The exhibition presented here will display 45 works by several School of Barbizon painters active after 1830 and by the small artists’ circle founded by Eugène Boudin in Honfleur around 1850, to which Courbet, Isabey and Jongkind belonged. The exhibition will also display other excellent paintings from the museum’s collection.

The artists displayed in this exhibition are: Antoine Barye, Jean-Victor Bertin, Eugène Boudin, Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, Gustave Courbet, Charles-Francois Daubigny, Narcisse Virgille Diaz de la Peña, Jules Dupré, Henri-Joseph Harpignies, Charles Jacque, Stanislas Lépine, Georges Michel, Jean-Francois Millet, Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Auguste-Francois Ravier, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Théodore Rousseau, Constant Troyon and Félix Ziem.


Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website 
Image: Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot (French, 1796 - 1875), La vasque de la Villa Médicis (Medici Fountain), After 1845, Oil on canvas, 7 1/16 × 11 1/4 in. © Musée des Beaux-Arts, Reims, Legacy Henry Marcel. Photo: C. Devleeschauwer


Whether or not you go, the exhibition catalog, Towards Impressionism: Landscape Painting from Corot to Monetfollows the artistic forbears that led up to the works of Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, by way of pastel palettes, loose brushwork, ordinary figures, and natural landscapes.  Impressionism is often considered the final 19th-century precursor to the radical experimentation of modernism. But every style has a precursor—so what movements paved the way for the atmospheric light, color, and composition characteristic of the impressionist works themselves? This beautifully illustrated volume traces the history of French art from the Romantics, to the School of Barbizon and the circle of Honfleur, up to Impressionism.

Select Towards Impressionism: Landscape Painting from Corot to Monet to learn more, or to place this book in your Amazon shopping cart.


A second book on the subject, pubished in 2002, Impressions Of Light: The French Landscape From Corot To Monet may also be of interest. It offers a lavish journey through the art of the 19th-century French landscape, offering a host of masterful works, among them Corot's Forest of Fontainbleau, Millet's End of the Hamlet of Gruchy, Renoir's Rocky Crags at L'Estaque, and Monet's Rue de la Bavolle, Honfleur. As is often the case, however, some of the most wonderful things to see are also the least expected: rare and unusual monotypes by Degas, three states of a softground etching by Pissarro, and numerous works by some of their lesser-known but equally important contemporaries. 

Unlike previous books on the topic, Impressions Of Light  presents a unique and stunningly complete group of work that introduces a new level of complexity into the discussion of French landscapes. Rather than considering the landscape as a steady, linear development and the product of a single medium, it takes into account the many crosscurrents and intersecting developments in French art, from the Barbizon school through the post-Impressionist period. In addition, it studies the landscape in a variety of media--painting, prints, and photography--exploring both the individual artists' perceptions and the ways in which they influenced each other. With over 80 paintings and 70 works on paper from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Impressions Of Light encompasses more than 100 years and 56 artists working in a dozen different media. It holds the broadest possible view, yet never loses sight of the extraordinary intricacy that makes the landscape so enduringly appealing. This book was created in conjunction with a major exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Select Impressions Of Light: The French Landscape From Corot To Monet to learn more, or to place this book in your Amazon shopping cart.

  • Painting
  • European
  • 19th Century
  • Landscape
  • Impressionism
  • Claude Monet
  • Pierre-Auguste Renoir
  • Camille Pissarro
  • Antoine Barye
  • Jean-Victor Bertin
  • Eugène Boudin
  • Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot
  • and others

Exhibition Venues & Dates