Robert Perry and the Barbizon Painters. July 2007

A brief journey into nostalgia.

In 1865 Claude Monet and Frederic Bazille left Paris for Barbizon, a small village on the edge of the Forest of Fontainebleau, forty miles South-West of Paris. They came to this district to paint from nature in the open air and to make studies for landscape paintings, far from the pressures of city life. Together with Renoir and Sisley, they were following a well-trodden path taken by painters and tourists some thirty years earlier. Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot had been studying the fleeting effects of nature in the forest as early as 1822, and in the 1840s Charles-Emile Jacque, Gustave Courbet, Charles-Francois Daubigny and Jean-Francois Millet made frequent visits to the area, some later taking up residence. Like many innovators, the Barbizon painters have attracted less attention than their followers. The names of Theodore Rousseau, Narcisse Diaz de la Pena, Rosa Bonheur and Georges Michel have virtually been forgotten and the originality of their painting techniques and impulsive brushwork attributed to those who later exploited them.

Stephen Adams “The Barbizon School and the origins of Impressionism”

EXPEDITION BARBIZON. July 2007 A brief journey into nostalgia

Robert Perry has admired the Barbizon Painters since his formative years as an art-student when he first saw the vigorously executed little “Woodland Scene” by N Diaz de la Pena in Birmingham City Art Gallery and the masterly landscapes by Corot and Daubigny in the Barber Institute.

In the Summer of 2007, he finally managed realise another of his (many) long-planned and much-postponed expeditions when he travelled, with his mobile studio, to work around Barbizon and the Forests of Fontainebleau, the areas within which the spirits of these 19th Century French Masters seem still to be wandering.

This painting expedition to France was, to some extent, to acknowledge his indebtedness to this group of painters and the principles of painting “plein air” which they established, principles which influenced the formulation of his “DIRECT RESPONSE” philosophy and methodology.

Most of the work produced during this trip consisted of small, intimate studies in gouache made as Rob wandered around the forest carrying only his lightweight sketching easel and equipment. Whilst at Barbizon, he took the opportunity of visiting the Auberge Du Ganne, where many of these artists had lodged and fraternised, and the studio/museums of Jean-Francois Millet and Theodore Rousseau.

Returning via Paris, Rob spent a brief time working at Auvers-sur-Oise where he produced a number of small gouaches and paid his respects at the graveside of Vincent Van Gogh. Here, he also visited the studio of Charles-Francois Daubigny where he was privileged to meet the artist’s Great-Great Grandson and was honoured by being invited, by him, to sign the official Visitors Book.