Permanent Collection Installations
Realism Barbizon Early Impressionism Later Impressionism Alternatives to Impressionism Postimpressionism

The development of naturalism -- that is, the unidealized depictions of nature, usually scenes of rural life and countryside -- at the start of the nineteenth century was due in large measure to a reaction against the strictures of academic art and the excesses of romanticism. Commercially available paint sold in tubes was mass-produced by the 1830s, enabling artists to work outdoors with relative ease, and production of drawn and painted sketches outdoors became a component of artistic training. The purpose was to train the hand in response to what the eye saw, and such sketches also constituted a repertoire of varied backgrounds for history paintings. Some artists, however, valued the studies in their own right.

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot was one of the most influential of these artists. His earliest landscape sketches date from his student days in Italy in the 1820s, and by the 1860s, Corot was established as a leading exponent of landscape painting, often working in a naturalist vein. Corot was loosely affiliated with the Barbizon group, artists who lived and worked mid-century in the forest of Fontainebleau, in France, in and around the town of Barbizon. Leading Barbizon painters include Théodore Rousseau, Jean-François Millet, Narcisse Diaz de la Peña, Jules Dupré, and Constant Troyon. Most specialized in depictions of the rural terrain in the region and celebrated the virtues of peasant life. Future impressionists Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, and Frédéric Bazille went together to paint near Barbizon in 1865, while Monet worked on a large composition of a family picnic, for which the National Gallery's Bazille and Camille is a study.

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot  
Bridge on the Saône River at   Mâcon