THE COLLECTION | Nineteenth-Century Landscape Paintings from the Permanent Collection
May 15−October 10, 2015

The ZMA’s permanent collection includes wonderful landscape paintings by French artists Eugène Delacroix (1798–1863), Jules Dupré (1811–1889), and Jean Baptiste Camille Corot (1796–1875) and the English painter John Joseph Barker (1824–1904). The works on display in this small exhibition illustrate the profound transformation within this genre during the nineteenth century when the idealism of Classical landscapes was rejected in favor of the naturalism embodied in these artists’ contemporary environs.

Primarily associated with Romanticism, an artistic movement privileging emotion, imagination, and spontaneity, Delacroix is best known for his dramatic and powerful images of exotic and historical scenes. Less than twenty pure landscape paintings are attributed to the artist, including Waterfall, perhaps painted during the mid-1840s when the artist lived in a small town outside of Paris called Champrosay. In this work, Delacroix’s expressive brushwork and poignant color palette accentuate the power and underlying forces he sought in the natural world. His keen interest in landscape is evident in his drawings and oil sketches, which were often integrated into his larger, historical compositions.

Fellow Frenchman Jules Dupré, who spent his formative years decorating plates in his father’s porcelain factory in Parmain, had, by the 1830s, developed a reputation as an important landscape painter. Preferring to paint outdoors, en plein air, Dupré observed and captured the effects of natural light, creating lush and gentle scenes like Meadow with Stream, dating from the mid-1840s. A member of the Barbizon School of artists who shared a common interest in nature and explored and depicted the Forest of Fontainebleau not far from Paris, Dupré depicted pristine landscapes, which were often viewed as a reaction to society’s rapid modernization.

Perhaps one of the most influential members of the Barbizons was Jean Baptiste Camille Corot. Although he struggled to gain recognition throughout his early painting career, critical success came in the 1850s. Images like Woodland Landscape demonstrate the artist’s desire to capture the mood or atmosphere inherent in his surroundings rather than to depict any particular, geographic details of place. This aspect of Corot’s work influenced an entirely new generation of artists known as the Impressionists. A generous teacher, Corot encouraged younger painters to reproduce his images, which he then signed as his own. As a result, paintings like Woodland Landscape reveal the artistry of more than one hand. 

Image: Thomas Barker, English Landscape, early Nineteenth Century