A French painter of the Barbizon school, Pierre Etienne Theodore Rousseau or simply Theodore Rousseau (April 15, 1812 – December 22, 1867), was born in Paris in a bourgeois family. Although he was trained in business, his aptitude for arts and painting was soon revealed. Rousseau’s areas of interest included the brilliance of the sea and skies, trees, rock formations, and the shifts in weather & light conditions, which he captured beautifully in his creations. Rousseau used to exhibit his paintings at the Salon in the early 1830s. After being rejected in 1836 however, he took an extreme step. The creator of “Edge of the Forest, near the Gorges d’Apremont,” Theodore, moved to settle in the village of Barbizon, the beautiful Fontainebleau region, where he set up the Barbizon School with other contemporary artists, including Jean-François Millet, Jules Dupré, and Charles-François Daubigny.Theodore Rousseau was extremely passionate about nature and for more than thirty years, he painted the rocky terrain and the ancient trees of the Forest of Fontainebleau. He was particularly fond of representing trees on the canvas and regarded trees as nearly human. He referred to his paintings of trees “portraits” and the trees as “beings.” His masterpieces are “La Déscente des vaches,” “The Chestnut Avenue,” “The Marsh in the Landes,” and “Hoar-Frost” among others. Theodore’s most famous painting “Edge of the Forest, near the Gorges d’Apremont” (1866) is one of his last exhibition-scale paintings depicting nature and trees, a subject he loved so dearly.Measuring 31.67″ x 39.58″, the painting is an oil on canvass work. The “Edge of the Forest, near the Gorges d’Apremont” portrays a grazing area on the rocky plateaus around the Gorges d’Apremont, in the Forest of Fontainebleau. The painting depicts a small herd of cows leisurely grazing and resting in a shadowy grove of chestnut trees, while their herder chats with a traveler on a horse. With extremely dramatic effect, Rousseau has been able to bring in the beauty, splendor, and the intricacies of forest life in the picture. One of the most fascinating features of the painting is the striking and beautiful color palette Rousseau used in depicting the scenery. From the colorful mosses and ferns that carpet the forest to the branches of the huge chestnut and oak trees and the white clouds dotting the sky, the colors are eye catching. Rousseau used stark orange tints, along with deep greens throughout the painting, which reflect the artist’s ability to bring the effect of the lively color variations seen in Japanese prints onto his own creations.Most of Theodore Rousseau’s works appear to be extremely grave, reflecting a somewhat melancholic feel, which is quite appealing for those who appreciate landscape art. Those that have been completed have an extremely good finish, but they are few in number. Rousseau left many of his paintings incomplete, with some parts of the painting filled in intricately and the rest only outlined. His famous painting “Edge of the Forest, near the Gorges d’Apremont” first appeared in an auction in 1952. It was in the collection of Baron Nathaniel de Rothschild of Paris and he might have directly acquired it from Rousseau. The beautiful and dramatic depiction of nature in the “Edge of the Forest, near the Gorges d’Apremont” epitomizes Rousseau’s style of painting.
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