June 21 –September 11, 2016 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center
Mont Blanc Seen from La Faucille, Storm Effect, Begun 1834. Théodore Rousseau (French, 1812 – 1867) Oil on canvas. 56 5/16 x 94 1/2 in. Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen.
LOS ANGELES – Unruly Nature: The Landscapes of Théodore Rousseau presents a rich selection of paintings and drawings by one of the giants of nineteenth-century French art. Théodore Rousseau (1812–1867) achieved international fame as a leader of the so-called “Barbizon School,” named after the village near the Forest of Fontainebleau where he spent much of his career. The exhibition, co-organized with the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen, will be on view June 21 through September 11, 2016, at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center. It will subsequently travel to Copenhagen, where it will run from October 13, 2016, through January 8, 2017.
The exhibition will feature more than seventy works—both paintings and drawings—making it the largest show devoted to Rousseau since the 1967 retrospective at the Musée du Louvre in Paris, which marked the centenary of the artist’s death. More importantly, with some forty museums and private collectors from the United States, Canada, France, Denmark, and the Netherlands generously lending works, Unruly Nature will be the first comprehensive loan exhibition devoted to Rousseau in North America.
“The exhibition explores the full scope of Rousseau’s achievement, revealing how creative, diverse, and experimental the art of landscape could be in the decades just before Impressionism,” says Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “His astonishing technical and stylistic variety, wondrously admired by contemporaries for matching the diversity of nature itself, continued to be celebrated in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when his pictures were among the most admired and coveted in the world.”
Trained in the Neoclassical landscape tradition but swept up in the currents of Romantic naturalism inspired by 17th-century Dutch and more recent English art, Rousseau played an important role in landscape’s rapid rise to preeminence in French art in the decades after 1830. Traveling widely around France, he tackled an impressive range of motifs, from mountain and forest to field and plain, and tried his hand an unprecedented variety of seasonal, weather, and lighting effects, creating a body of work that vastly expanded the vocabulary of French landscape expression.
“Rousseau’s art has epic mood swings, from the most turbulent, heady, and impulsive to the most dispassionate, patient, and analytical,” notes Scott Allan, assistant curator in the Department of Paintings at the J. Paul Getty Museum and co-curator of the exhibition. “This is dramatically apparent, for example, in his two contrasting views of Mont Blanc—one painted at the very beginning of his career and one at the very end,” Allan explains, referencing Mont Blanc Seen from La Faucille, Storm Effect (1835–36; Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen) and View of Mont Blanc, Seen from La Faucille (1863–67; Minneapolis Institute of Art), both of which will appear in the exhibition.
Allan continues, “The show aims to represent the full extent of Rousseau’s art, striking a balance between paintings and drawings, smaller and larger pictures, finished and unfinished work, and the private and public sides of his multifaceted practice, which he conducted partly outdoors but mostly in the studio. Throughout, we’re paying special attention to Rousseau’s working procedures and techniques, and consequently stressing the consummate artifice of his landscapes.
” Edouard Kopp, Maida and George Abrams Associate Curator of Drawings, Division of European and American Art, Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum and co-curator of the exhibition, further notes that “the exhibition will feature familiar pictures from well-known collections, but it will also include works that have not been seen in public in many decades and, in some cases, that have never before been exhibited.”
In conjunction with the exhibition, the Getty and the LA Philharmonic are collaborating on an evening concert at the Hollywood Bowl, scheduled for August 18. The ebullient and erudite Nicholas McGegan will conduct a concert program inspired by Rousseau’s own taste for composers such as Mozart, Beethoven, and Weber. An accompanying video will provide insight into the various musical and artistic crosscurrents in early- to mid-nineteenth-century France that shaped the sensibilities of Rousseau and his Romantic generation. The collaboration will continue in the Getty’s galleries with an audio tour featuring a musical playlist selected by maestro McGegan in addition to a second audio tour presenting commentary from curators Allan and Kopp on highlights of the exhibition.
Unruly Nature: The Landscapes of Théodore Rousseau is co-organized by the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, and the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen. The exhibition will be accompanied by a substantial scholarly catalogue, Unruly Nature: The Landscapes of Théodore Rousseau, co-authored by the exhibition’s curators Scott Allan and Edouard Kopp, with a contribution by Line Clausen Pedersen of the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. Published by Getty Publications, the lavishly illustrated catalogue includes essays on Rousseau’s draftsmanship, his painting process, his work’s reception at the Paris Salon, and the evolving market for his art both during his lifetime and following his death.
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