It is easy to be drawn into the quiet and sometimes melancholy atmosphere of Théodore Rousseau’s landscapes. In this superb example, the morning light produces a striking silhouette of landscape and fisherman. With his dog at his feet, he may be on his way home with the morning’s catch. A tangle of forest bristles up on the left, while over on the right, sheep graze placidly in a pasture. Although the majesty of the landscape dwarfs the small figure of the fisherman, you’ll see that Rousseau has placed him at the center of the picture, between the untamed wilderness on one side, and on the other, a cultivated pasture. Perhaps this is Rousseau’s way of saying that humans and nature can coexist peacefully. Indeed, it was a belief espoused by Rousseau and other French landscape painters associated with the Barbizon School.
Rousseau was a tireless champion of nature, and campaigned vigorously to preserve the forest of Fontainebleau, not far from Paris. Thanks in part to his crusading, Emperor Napoleon III would eventually pass a decree that set aside parts of the Forest for preservation, making it the first nature preserve in the world.
Known as Le Grand Refusé due to his exclusion and consequent abstention from the annual Paris Salons of 1836–48, Théodore Rousseau is nevertheless considered to be instrumental in the establishment of the Barbizon School of French landscape painting. Neither stylistically consistent nor a cohesive band of painters, this group held but one common credo—that humans and nature could coexist without the hierarchy of one establishing itself over the other. Rousseau’s unique approach, different from fellow landscape painters Corot, Daubigny and Harpignies, took cues from the idealized world of Romantic landscape painting and applied them to the less structured aspects observed while painting out-of-doors. Morning Effect, exhibited to much acclaim at the Salon of 1850–51, is a superb example of the liminal position of Rousseau’s landscapes. The morning sun creates a dramatic silhouette of landscape and fisherman, who appears to be just leaving with his morning catch. Located at the center of the canvas between an untamed area of forest at left and a cultivated pasture with grazing sheep at right, the fisherman assimilates peacefully and naturally into the meticulously executed rural setting.
- Artist Name: Pierre-Étienne-Théodore Rousseau (French, 1812-1867)
- Title: Morning Effect
- Date: c. 1850
- Medium: Oil on canvas
- Dimensions: 39-1/4 x 53 in. (99.7 x 134.6 cm)
- Credit Line: The Norton Simon Foundation
- Accession Number: F.1976.14.P
- Copyright: © The Norton Simon Foundation
Duc de Morny, Paris.
Charles de Férol, probably his sale (Hôtel des Commissaires-Priseurs, Paris, 22 January 1856, lot 22, sold for Fr 2,330).
Friedrich Jakob Gsell, Vienna, by 1868.
Emile Gavet (1830-1904), Paris, by 1872.
Madame Isaac Péreire, Paris, by 1883, sold 1910 by heirs to;
[Arnold and Tripp, Paris, by whom sold for Fr 750,000 to];
[Knoedler and Company, New York, stock 12465, sold 1911 for $160,000 to];
George Fisher Baker, New York, by inheritance upon his death in 1931 to his heir;
Florence Bellows Baker (Mrs. William Goadby Loew), New York, by 1932, by inheritance upon her death in 1936 to her daughter;
Florence Lowe (Mrs. Robert E. Strawbridge, Jr.), New York, by inheritance upon her death in 1972 to;
Robert E. Strawbridge III, New York;
[Wildenstein Gallery, New York, by 1975, sold 1976 for $75,000 to];
The Norton Simon Foundation.
A Fiftieth Anniversry Exhibition
- New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1920-05-08 to 1920-11-01
- Sensier, A., Souvenirs sur Theodore Rousseau, p. 220
- Blanche, J., Gazette des Beaux-Arts, p. 88
- Commemorative Catalogue of the Exhibition of French Art, 1200-1900, Royal Academy of Arts, London, January-March,
- Thomas, Greg M., Art and Ecology in Nineteenth-Century France: The Landscapes of Théodore Rousseau,fig. 12 p. 27
- Brettell, Richard R. and Stephen F. Eisenman, Nineteenth-Century Art in the Norton Simon Museum, volume 1,2006,
- Campbell, Sara, Collector Without Walls: Norton Simon and His Hunt for the Best,2010, cat. 1376 p. 400
- Masterpieces from the Norton Simon Museum,1989, p. 117
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