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Learn More About Landscape in the Nineteenth Century

Jules Le Coeur Walking in the Fontainbleau Forest with his Dogs
Jules Le Coeur Walking in the Fontainbleau Forest with his Dogs, 1866
Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Oil on Canvas
41 3/4 x 31 3/4 in
Museu de Arte de São Paulo
Assis Châteaubriand, São Paulo
During the first half of the nineteenth century, the development of an extensive railway system provided easier, quicker access to the natural environment beyond the immediate confines of the city. The forest of Fontainebleau, a royal retreat, became a popular site of recreation and escape from the stresses of urban life. The expansion of walking trails and the publication of numerous guides to the forest introduced new sylvan landscapes for public consumption and enjoyment. The forest became a popular subject among painters and photographers, and Renoir created several works that captured the dense vegetation and rock-studded hillocks of Fontainebleau. In February of 1866, Renoir accompanied architect-turned-painter Jules Le Coeur on a walking and painting tour through Fontainebleau. Renoir's painting Jules Le Coeur Walking in the Fontainbleau Forest with his Dogs, seen at left, captures a moment in this excursion and was undoubtedly executed on site as well as in the studio. Renoir depicts his friend as he climbs a grass-covered path through the hilly and densely covered terrain of the Forest.

Landscape and Photography

The following photographs represent various aspects of the urban and rural environment in the nineteenth century—from views of public gardens to country estates. The modern human subject figures prominently in a number of these photographs. Whether relaxing in an urban park or returning from a sporting expedition, the women and men attest to the variety of activities that had become available to a wider public throughout the nineteenth century.

Tuileries Palace
Tuileries Palace, c. 1860
Edouard-Denis Baldus, French (born Germany)
Albumen silver print
Image and sheet: 7 3/4 x 11 3/16 inches (19.7 x 28.4 cm) Mount: 16 1/4 x 11 3/4 inches (41.3 x 29.8 cm)
Gift of Harvey S. Shipley Miller and J. Randall Plummer, 2006
[ More Details ]
Tuileries, 1907-1908
Eugène Atget, French
Albumen silver print
Image and sheet (irregular): 8 9/16 x 7 inches (21.7 x 17.8 cm)
125th Anniversary Acquisition. The Lynne and Harold Honickman Gift of the Julien Levy Collection, 2001
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Landscape and the Press—L'Illustration

Study After Nature
Study after Nature, 1874
From the French periodical L'Illustration
Founded in 1843, the French news weekly L'Illustration was an extravagantly produced periodical that sought to capture up-to-date views of the modern world. Throughout Renoir's lifetime, the publication was known for its woodcuts and metal etchings as well as the scope of its articles, which covered topics of Parisian, French, and international concerns. The images here present different ways in which landscape was represented on the pages of L'Illustration: from the image of landscape painters at work en plein air (seen at right) to uninhabited views of forest settings as well as the new private gardens that sprung up during the nineteenth century as bucolic retreats in the midst of the urban fabric of Paris (seen below). Daumier's satirical take on landscape artists at work provides a more incisive critique of the type of artistic ventures that were part and parcel of the visual representations reproduced on the pages of L'Illustration.

Nature's AbodeâTwilight
Nature's Abode—Twilight, 1872
From the French periodical L'Illustration
Private Garden
The Private Gardens of Paris—Le Jardin des Carmes, 1871
From the French periodical L'Illustration

Landscape and the City: Paris in the 19th century

Square de la Trinitié sketch
Square de la Trinitié
Alphand, A., Les Promenades de Paris
Bois Vista
Bois Vista
Alphand, A., Les Promenades de Paris
Alphand, A., Les Promenades de Paris
Jean-Charles Adolphe Alphand was a French park designer who worked with Baron Haussmann to renovate large sections of Paris during the early years of Renoir's life. He was in charge of many of the urban parks projects undertaken during Haussmann's enterprise, including the Bois de Boulogne and the Buttes Chaumont. Alphand meticulously recorded the extensive renovations to the urban fabric of Paris in his encyclopedic work, The Promenades of Paris. These illustrations, instructions, lists of materials, and architectural plans demonstrate the degree to which the seemingly informal natural environments of the urban parks and gardens were in fact meticulously engineered reorganizations of the urban fabric: from the mathematically precise botanical specifications to the extensive public works and other infrastructure required to bring the countryside into the city.

La Grenouillère

La Grenouillere
La Grenouillere, 1869
Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Oil on Canvas
23 1/4 x 31 1/2 in.
RepositoryPushkin Museum of Fine Arts (Muzey Izobrazitelnykh Iskusstv Imeni A.S. Pushkina),
Moscow, Russia
The bathing resort of La Grenouillère outside Paris was a modern establishment that attracted the interest of the young Renoir and Claude Monet as the subject of a new kind of history painting. Rather than represent a scene of classical antiquity or biblical history, these artists searched for important historical subjects from their own time and place. The six paintings that they produced in the summer of 1869 were originally intended as plein-air (open air) studies for larger works that would later be produced in the studio. Yet these pictures, only one of which is shown in this exhibition (at left), have been taken as the touchstone for Impressionist painting—representing a scene of modern life through a novel technique that seems to capture fleeting experiences.


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