My introductory note to this little volume must be no more than an extremely personal, very fractional acknowledgment of the debt I owe to Theodore Rousseau. I began my career under his wise and friendly direction in the Department of European Paintings, and it was he who taught me how to look at a work of art and how to weigh its qualities. His own responses were so sincere and his manner of teaching so clear and so kindly that I think I have never, since those early days, confronted a painting, or indeed any object of artistic worth, without adopting in my critical attitudes and in my appreciation some of his own approach. The rare men who achieve this gift for warm communication with their colleagues never really die, because they pass on so much of what they have to offer, even to minds and hearts that differ widely from their own. Although few of us who knew him have his eye, we are nevertheless more effective because of what we learned from him. And all of this was true not only of his professional guidance to judgment and criticism but also of the example he set in his sensible and gentle way of dealing with human beings.
In an effort to give some tangible presence to Theodore Rousseau's ideas about art and artists and to his original and penetrating understanding of the periods that produced them, the Museum has selected from his numerous writings these five essays that seem to be especially imbued with his perception and insight. Like all his work, they are much more than conventional scholarly analyses by an art historian. He loved a wide variety of objects and with singular directness wrote of them enthusiastically and with grace.