Théodore Rousseau (French, 1812–1867)
Oil on wood
31 1/2 x 48 in. (80 x 121.9 cm)
Signed and dated (lower left): TH.Rousseau–1854
Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Collection, Wolfe Fund, 1896 (96.27)
This was one of thirteen paintings that Rousseau exhibited at the Salon of 1855. After working on the panel for two years, he dated it, a rare gesture signifying that he considered it particularly successful. Although its composition recalls seventeenth-century Dutch pictures, the subject had contemporary resonance. As related by the artist's friend and biographer Alfred Sensier, this painting represents part of the woods at Fontainebleau whose trees—some hundreds of years old—were subject to harvest, a practice Rousseau bitterly opposed. Thus, the open space in this painting is not a natural feature of the landscape but the edge of a threatened grove of ancient specimens.