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Théodore Rousseau

Born: Paris , 15 April 1812
Died: Barbizon, 22 December 1867
Nationality: French



with cousin Alexandre Pau de Saint-Martin; with Joseph Rémond (1826); with
history painter Guillaume Lethére


1831-35 – Paris Salon debut in 1831; regular acceptance through 1835

1834 – receives Salon’s third-class medal for Edge of a Clearing, Forest of Compiegne (private collection)

1836-41 – every submission to the Salon rejected by antagonistic juror Jean-Joseph-Xavier Bidauld; Rousseau becomes known as ‘le grand refusé’; exclusion of Rousseau and Delacroix from Salon provokes criticism from Gustave Planche, the Goncourts, and L’Artiste

1842-48 – Rousseau abstains from Salon

1848 – receives French governmentl commission for Edge of the Forest of Fontainebleau, Sunset

1849 – receives Salon’s first-class medal for Avenue of Trees, Forest of l’Isle-Adam, thereby no longer required to submit his work to Salon jury

1852 – receives Cross of the Legion of Honor

1855 –room at Exposition universelle (Paris) devoted to Rousseau

1865 – meetings with Napoleon III resulting in conservation policy protecting Fontainebleau Forest

1867 – elected president of Exposition universelle jury; receives grand medal of honor; initially denied but later receives title of Officer of the Legion of Honor


regular visits to the Forest of Fontainebleau and to Barbizon

Commissions from: 

Ferdinand-Philippe, Duc d’Orléans; French government

Important Artworks: 

Avenue of Chestnut-trees, 1841 (Louvre, Paris)

Edge of the Forest of Fontainebleau, Sunset, 1848 (Louvre, Paris)

Avenue of Trees, Forest of l’Isle-Adam, 1849 (Musée d’Orsay, Paris)



Rousseau was passionate about nature and felt it both an antidote to and refuge from the modern world:

“[L]et the civilised world go to the devil! Long live nature, forests and ancient poetry!”

Cited in Jean Bouret, L’Ecole de Barbizon et le paysage français au XIXe siècle (Paris: Bibliothèque des arts, 1973), 87.


See Nadar’s portrait of Rousseau

Web Resources

Metmuseum: Barbizon painting