“In 1872, the population of Barbizon, […] being 351 inhabitants including 147 peasants, 100 artists or foreigners, a schoolteacher, a gamekeeper and his family (three people). Should be included among the peasants, the loggers, the charcoal makers, and the quarrymen. “
– Barbizon at the time of Jean-François Millet.
A few steps from the forest of Fontainebleau, nestles the village of Barbizon. From 1848, this small hamlet became the place of passage and informal meetings of painters, attached to representing the reality of country life and its bucolic landscapes.
The painters Théodore Rousseau and Jean-François Millet settled there. Camille Corot, Jules Dupré, Antoine Barye, Charles Daubigny, Narcisse Diaz or even Alexandre Decamps like to join them at the Auberge Ganne, where there is a good pulpit and a warm welcome. Together, they form an “isolated” group, somewhat intriguing, evolving according to their friendships, their quarrels and their creations. Although traditionally called “School”, this group has neither doctrine nor formal links; he simply shares the same rejection of the artificial nature of academic art, preferring the frankness of the real to conventional constraints.
From then on, realism as a coherent movement was born in the middle of the XIXth century. Mainly associated with France, the naturalistic tendency is nevertheless evident in several European countries.
If the landscape architects of Barbizon do not form a “School” in the restricted sense of the term, they are driven by the same understanding of the genre. Although the landscape architects of Barbizon do not form a “School” in the restricted sense of the term, they are driven by the same understanding of the genre.
With a play of light and shadow of almost photographic clarity, “Les Lavandières” is part of the tradition of paintings of rural scenes in which the work of peasants is honored. If the “Gleaners” of J.F. Millet, collect their ears with a noble gesture, “Les Lavandières” wash their laundry dressed with great dignity.
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