( Originally Published 1955 )
A name given to the initiators of landscape painting in France in the nineteenth century. These painters were thrown together by common aims and poverty. Barbizon is the name of a village on the edge of the Forest of Fontainebleau where most of them resided at one time or another from the 1830's on. The desire of the group was to paint nature as seen, a doctrine in direct antithesis to the prevailing classical theory. This attitude stemmed from the contemporary Romantic movement, although French Romantic painting had at first expressed itself in literary rather than nature imagery. The trend toward landscape painting in France was inspired by the English, through visits of the watercolorists, exhibitions of Constable and especially through the permanent residence in Paris of Bonington. Several of the Barbizon group then turned to a study of the Dutch landscape and animal painters of the seventeenth century. The greatest and most independent of the "school," Camille Corot (see), seems rather to have developed from those constant sources of French inspiration, Poussin, Claude and the Italian Journey. Nominal head of the group was Theodore Rousseau (see), a man of strong will and rebellious temperament who painted still scenes in a somewhat Dutch manner. More of a figure painter was Frangois Millet (see), who infused peasant scenes and labor with Victorian liberal sentiment. Charles Daubigny (see) interested himself in pleinsir principles and so not only anticipated Impressionism, but actually associated with members of that younger group. Others of the Barbizon painters were Dupre, Diaz de la Pena, Troyon, Harpignies, Jacque and Frangois. Despite difficult beginnings, by mid-century most members of the group were in vogue.