The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Pierre-Etienne Théodore Rousseau, 1812-1867

Nationality: French
Date of Birth: 1812.04.15
Place of Birth: Paris
Date of Death: 1867.12.22
Place of Death: Barbizon


Pierre-Etienne Théodore Rousseau was a landscape painter and etcher. His cousin, Alexandre Pau de Saint-Martin (1782–1850) was also a landscape painter.


Rousseau was a central figure within the Barbizon school. He studied in the studio of Joseph Rémond and with the history painter Guillaume Lethière, but his primary influences were the works of John Constable and the Dutch landscape painters of the seventeenth century. Rousseau and Jean-François Millet jointly bought a Jan van Goyen painting, and Rousseau came to own around fifty prints of Dutch paintings.

In his own work Rousseau was particularly concerned with painting studies en plein-air, although he continued to finish his paintings in the studio. Works such as Road in the Forest of Fontainebleau, Stormy Effect (ca 1860-65; Louvre, Paris) show an interest in atmospheric effects and a rough, varied technique.

Rousseau made his début at the Salon in 1831. However, he became known as 'le grand refusé' because of his exclusion from the Paris Salon between 1836 and 1841 and his abstention between 1842 and 1849. In 1849 he reappeared at the Salon, showing Avenue of Trees, Forest of l'Isle-Adam (1849; Musée d'Orsay, Paris), for which he received a first-class medal. However, he was passed over for the Légion d'honneur. This he received in 1852 and in 1855 a room at the Exposition Universelle in Paris was devoted entirely to him.

In 1862 JW's brother-in-law expressed his admiration for some etchings by Rousseau whilst on a trip to Paris (#08029). Henri Fantin-Latour also reported to JW his admiration for Rousseau's works at the 1863 Salon (#01079). Rousseau was elected president of the jury for the Exposition Universelle in 1867 and received one of the four grand medals of honour. He was also made an Officer of the Légion d'honneur in this year.


Toussaint, H. (ed.), Théodore Rousseau, Paris, 1967-68; Bouret, J., The Barbizon School and 19th Century French Landscape Painting, Greenwich, 1973; Terrasse, A., Théodore Rousseau's Universe, Paris, 1976; Adams, S., The Barbizon School and the Origins of Impressionism, London, 1994; Beard, Dorathea K., 'Théodore Rousseau', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, 9accessed 11 April 2003).