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Recent Acquisitions - 9 of 12

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Farm in Les Landes by Théodore Rousseau

Théodore Rousseau
French, 1812–1867
Farm in Les Landes
Oil on canvas
25 1/2 x 39 in. (64.8 x 99.1 cm)
Acquired by the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 2009

Painted by one of the most celebrated landscape painters of the mid-nineteenth-century, Farm in Les Landes depicts a region of southwestern France that Rousseau likened to Eden. Monumental oaks, silhouetted against an intense blue sky, dominate this scene of a humble farm warmed by late afternoon sunlight. A dusty path leads through a rustic gate into a busy yard: a man repairs a wagon wheel while a child looks on; nearby, women feed cows and hang clean linens before a barn with a great thatched roof. The painting is a moving testament to Rousseau’s love for rural life and unadorned nature—concerns he shared with fellow Barbizon painters Camille Corot (1796–1875), Constant Troyon (1810–1865), and Narcisse Diaz (1807–1876). Rousseau worked on Farm in Les Landes for nearly twenty-five years. The painting had its origins in 1844, when Rousseau traveled throughout the region just south of Bordeaux, making drawings inspired by the local scenery and inhabitants. Returning to his Barbizon studio with preparatory drawings and grisaille sketches in hand, Rousseau worked on the final canvas over the ensuing decade, refining the evocation of the play of southern light on the leaves of the trees. Rousseau exhibited Farm in Les Landes at the Salon in 1859, where it was criticized by conservative writers but admired by younger ones, who saw it as a significant experimental work. The painting was purchased in 1852 by Frédéric Hartmann (d. 1881), an Alsatian industrialist and one of the artist’s most important patrons. Due to Rousseau’s obsessive working manner, Hartmann was unable to collect the picture until well after the artist’s death in 1867. Even then, the painting was said to have been finished by Rousseau’s good friend Jean-François Millet (1814–1875) before Hartmann finally took possession of it, some twenty years after his initial purchase.