Théodore Rousseau

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portrait of Theodore Rousseau; photo of Nadar, 1855-1859
Th. Rousseau, 1830: 'Mountain landscape with a fisher', oil-painting on canvas; location: Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam
Th. Rousseau, early 1834: 'Thunderstorm over Mont Blanc / Mont Blanc Seen from La Faucille, Storm Effect', oil-painting on canvas; location: Courtesy of Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen - quote of Th. Rousseau, 1834: 'I burn with the desire of fulfilling the difficult task of giving upon canvas an idea of the immensity which surrounds me [The Alps] in order to distribute its benefits to those less fortunate than myself.. .I ask without scruple, because it seems to me that I have something to give.'
Th. Rousseau, 1840 and later: 'Twilight', oil-painting on canvas; location: Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Th. Rousseau, 1845: 'Thunderstorms mood in the level of Montmartre', color-painting on panel; location: Musée d'Orsay, Paris
Th. Rousseau, 1849-1855: 'Forest of Fontainebleau, Cluster of Tall Trees Overlooking the Plain of Clair-Bois at the Edge of Bas-Bréau', oil-painting on canvas; location: Getty Center, Los Angeles, California - quote on this painting by Vincent van Gogh, c. 1883, in a letter to brother Theo: '...an edge of a wood in the autumn after rain, with a vista of meadows stretching away endlessly, marshy, with cows in them, the foreground rich in tone. To me that's one of the finest .. .The dramatic effect of these paintings is something that helps us to understand 'a corner of nature seen through a temperament'
Th.Rousseau, c. 1851: 'Mountainous Landscape near Fontainebleau', oil-painting on panel; location: Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam - quote of Th. Rousseau, 1850'a: 'I heard the voices of the trees; the surprises of their movements. Their varieties of form and even their peculiarity of attraction toward the light had suddenly revealed to me the language of the forest.'

Pierre Théodore Rousseau (April 15, 1812 – December 22, 1867) was an important French painter of the Barbizon school. His landscape paintings are mainly grave in character, with an air of melancholy.

Quotes of Théodore Rousseau[edit]

sorted chronologically, by date of the quote
  • My good Mama, I am always the same.. ..always the same happy life, always fresh for seeing, vigorous for running, and diligent for one end.. .The Mont Blanc is our alarm clock in the morning, our vis-a-vis are the folk on the other side of the lake of Geneva, (8 leagues). I could not say that we get along badly, though we do dispense with the ceremony of saluting each other and saying bon jour when we look out at the window, for we don't meddle in our neighbors' affairs. Our sight carries fifty leagues about us, and we are equally everywhere, although only occupying the space of our two feet. I am delighted with having received my stretchers in order to commence my view of the Alps. I burn with the desire of fulfilling the difficult task of giving upon canvas an idea of the immensity which surrounds me in order to distribute its benefits to those less fortunate than myself.. .I ask without scruple, because it seems to me that I have something to give. I have so much confidence in myself, mon Dieu, when I examine myself.
    • In a letter to his mother, late Summer 1834, from the Alps, Switzerland; as quoted in Barbizon days, Millet-Corot-Rousseau-Barye by Charles Sprague Smith, A. Wessels Company, New York, July 1902, pp. 152-53
  • I heard the voices of the trees; the surprises of their movements. Their varieties of form and even their peculiarity of attraction toward the light had suddenly revealed to me the language of the forest. All that world of flora lived as mutes, whose signs I divined, whose passions I discovered. I wished to converse with them and to be able to say to myself, through that other language, painting, that I had put my finger upon the secret of their grandeur.
    • quote from a talk with Alfred Sensier [1], 1850's; as quoted in Barbizon days, Millet-Corot-Rousseau-Barye by Charles Sprague Smith, A. Wessels Company, New York, July 1902, p. 147
  • Do not be anxious about [an ordered painting] 'La Ferme' my dear Mr. Hartmann, I am anxious to establish in this picture such a decision deformed, that it may exist, independently of the caprices of the light, and of the influence of the hours of the day. I am regulating it, absolutely as a watchmaker regulates a watch after he has finished it,
    • In a letter to Mr. Hartmann, c. 1853; as quoted in The Painters of Barbizon I – Millet, Rousseau and Diaz, by John W. Mollett, B.A.; publ. Sampton Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington, Limited, London, 1890, p. 81
    • his biographer/friend Alfred Sensier writes: this seemed to Mr. Hartmann 'as the reasoning of a troubled mind.' [2]
  • Do you see that corner of canvas there [of his painting 'La Ferme'], large as the hand, does it not seem to you that it far surpasses in intensity, in clearness, in expression, the rest of the canvas? [Sensier confirmed]. Well, then, all the rest must pass under the control of that little centre; all that which surrounds it submit itself to that diapason of light and the whole of the picture be as charged with life as that which you see there. Must we not incessantly lift ourselves, surpass ourselves, in this terrible profession of painter?
    • quote from a talk with Alfred Sensier, c. 1855; as quoted in Barbizon days, Millet-Corot-Rousseau-Barye by Charles Sprague Smith, A. Wessels Company, New York, July 1902, pp. 159-60
    • the quote is pointing to his painting 'The Farm / La Ferme', upon which Rousseau had worked for years
  • The tree which rustles and the heather which grows are for me the grand history, that which will not change. If I speak well their language, I shall have spoken well the language of all times.
    • as quoted in Barbizon days, Millet-Corot-Rousseau-Barye by Charles Sprague Smith, A. Wessels Company, New York, July 1902, p. 132
  • What has art to do with those things [Revolotion, socialism]? Art will never come except from some little disregarded corner where some isolated man is studying the mysteries of nature, fully assured that the answer which he finds and which is good for him is good also for humanity, whatever may be the number of succeeding generations.
    • as quoted by Romain Rolland in his book Millet, c. 1900; transl. Miss Clementina Black; published by Duckworth & Co, Londo / E. P. Dutton & Co, New York, 1919, p. 8
  • I thought only of one thing, to account to myself for the laws of light and perspective. I did not attach any importance to what they found original, new and romantic in me, I sought the picture.
    • as quoted in Barbizon days, Millet-Corot-Rousseau-Barye by Charles Sprague Smith, A. Wessels Company, New York, July 1902, p. 141
    • Th. Roussseau took little part in the French art-discussions of the day between Classicists and Romanticists, in the 1830's
  • Yes, a man ought to be courageous enough, loyal enough, and rich enough, not to produce but one prodigious work, in order that this work should be a chef-d'oeuvre, and glorify the man in his creation.. .If I could have my wish, I would be a millionaire for nothing else save to effect the genesis of a single and unique picture, to consecrate myself thereto and to find my pleasure therein, to suffer and joy in it, until, content with my work, after years of trial, I could sign it and say: 'There my powers stop and there my heart ceases to beat' .
    • as quoted by Charles Sprague Smith, in Barbizon days, Millet-Corot-Rousseau-Barye publisher, A. Wessels Company, New York, July 1902, pp. 160-61

Quotes about Théodore Rousseau[edit]

sorted chronologically, by date of the quote
  • Aligny was there [in Barbizon], and Diaz, and Rousseau, and Rousseau's instructions on the palette were the 'point de départ' [starting-point] of the real talent of Diaz, for colour. At this period [after 1836] the fine studies of the 'Grand Refusé' [3] (Rousseau) were a revelation to the quondam painter [Diaz!] of porcelain, who had been struggling, all alone, to purge himself of the traditions of the 'peinture' of the 'apothecaries' gallipot, and the chocolat cup.. .Diaz was conquered immediately by Rousseau, and his admiration for him remained for ever, the conviction and the religion of all his life.
    • from Souvenirs sur Theodore Rousseau, Alfred Sensier [4], (Paris, 1872); as quoted in The Painters of Barbizon 1. – Millet, Rousseau and Diaz, by John W. Mollett, B.A.; publ. Sampton Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington, Limited, London, 1890, p. 96
  • Speaking of Rousseau, do you know Richard Wallace's Rousseau ['The forest of Fontainebleau': Morning', c. 1850 [5]]? An edge of a wood in the autumn after rain, with a vista of meadows stretching away endlessly, marshy, with cows in them, the foreground rich in tone. To me that's one of the finest — is very like the one with the red sun in The Luxembourg ['The edge of the forest of Fontainebleau, at sunset', c. 1849]. The dramatic effect of these paintings is something that helps us to understand 'a corner of nature seen through a temperament'.
    • Vincent van Gogh in a letter to Theo, from the Hague, c. 11 July 1883 - original manuscript at Van Gogh Museum, location Amsterdam - inv. nos. b322 a-c V/1962, [6]
    • the idea of 'a corner of nature seen through a temperament' accords with the naturalistic approach to art as formulated by the Frech writer Zola
  • The grand aspects of landscape and its tenderness are equally familiar to him [Rousseau]. He renders with the same mastery the smile of creation and its terrors, the broad open plain and the mysterious forest, the limpid, sun-bright sky or the heaping of the clouds put to flight by storms, the terrible aspects of landscape or those replete with grace. He has understood all, rendered all with equal genius. The great contemporary painters have each a particular stamp, Corot [is] painting the grace, Millet the hidden voice, Jules Dupré the majestic strength; Theodore Rousseau has been by turns as much a poet as Corot, as melancholy as Millet, as awful as Dupré; he is the most complete, for he embraces landscape art absolutely.
    • Albert Wolff, 1886, in Notes upon certain masters of the XIX century, - printed not published MDCCCLXXXVI (1886), The Art Age Press, 400 N.Y. (written after the exhibition 'Cent Chefs-d'Oeuvres: the Choiche of the French Private Galleries', Petit, Paris / Baschet, New York, 1883, p. 60
  • With advancing age Rousseau was attacked with that thirst for honorable recognition which in an artist is the first sign of senility. He did not carry stoicism to the end, like Millet. Though haughty and full of contempt for his detractors, Rousseau's self-love had at length received a wide and deep wound, made up of pin-pricks. We find the signs of his bitter feelings in his correspondence, in those familiar notes which were published after his death, and which are like the cries of pain from the wounded heart. At this time a period of hesitation begins to be seen in the work of the great painter.. .The [Paris] Salon of 1864 was the witness of this defection, a matter of pain to Rousseau's admirers.
    • Albert Wolff, 1886, in Notes upon certain masters of the XIX century, - printed not published MDCCCLXXXVI (1886), The Art Age Press, 400 N.Y. (written after the exhibition 'Cent Chefs-d'Oeuvres: the Choice of the French Private Galleries', Petit, Paris / Baschet, New York, 1883, p. 61
  • Rousseau's other friend and neighbour [in Barbizon], Jules Dupré, himself an eminent landscape painter of Barbizon, relates the difficulty Rousseau experienced in knowing when his picture was finished, and how he, Dupré, would sometimes take away from the studio some canvas on which Rousseau was labouring too long.
    • Encyclopædia Britannica, 1911 – volume 23; [7]


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