Souvenirs of the Barbizon: Photographs, Paintings, and Works on Paper

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Painting and photography blossomed into fully corollary practices not long after photography’s invention was announced in 1839. That fruitful relationship is exemplified by a group of works made in France’s Barbizon region.

Easily accessible by train from Paris as early as 1849, the Barbizon and its Forest of Fontainebleau flourished as a destination, and the inspiring rural landscape fostered a collegial atmosphere. Photographers, often trained as painters, composed images in response to oil sketches or drawings made outdoors or en plein air. Simultaneously, painters began using naturalistic photographs as aides-mémoire for future canvases. More realistic than sketches and more reproducible than paintings, photographs enjoyed wide circulation, popularizing and echoing compositions from the 1850s and 1860s by Jean-François Millet, while inspiring others by the likes of Camille Pissarro in the 1870s.

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