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Arts of Europe

The MFAH collections of art created on the European continent encompass artistic styles across the time line of history, from the ancient world to the Middle Ages, and the Early Modern era to the 21st century.

French, 1796 - 1875
Young Man in front of a Great Oak
c. 1840
Graphite heightened with white gouache on buff wove paper

11 1/2 x 15 11/16 inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Gift of the Houston Alumnae Chapter of Delta Delta Delta Sorority
in honor of Laura Lee Blanton

Arts of Europe

In this tranquil scene, probably set in the Forest of Fontainebleau near Paris, Camille Corot depicts a man leaning against a towering oak tree. Corot was a leading member of the Barbizon School, a group of French landscape painters named for the village of Barbizon in northern France where most of the schoolís painters resided.

The progressive Barbizon School emphasized landscape as its primary subject matter rather than relegating landscape as the backdrop to history paintings or portraits. Anticipating the Impressionist innovation of painting en plein air (French for "in the open air"), Corot sketched outdoors, then returned to his studio to translate his carefully arranged compositions into paintings depicting mythological and biblical subjects. This drawing's high degree of finish suggests that it was a presentation drawing—a drawing created as a finished work of art, not as a stage in preparation for a work in another medium. Corot achieved the enchanting variations of the texture, shadow, and form in the drawing by simply changing the angle and pressure of his pencil.