Monday, August 2, 2010

Barbizon and Plein Air Art

We had a leisurely breakfast in our room this morning; and after getting a second wifi access we both enjoyed some time on the Internet before heading out about 10 am for today’s destination: Barbizon, a village about ten miles south of Melun and known worldwide for the school of art that has existed there since the mid 19th century.

A small village on the edge of the Fontainebleau Forest, it was a haven for artists escaping from Paris during the 19th century epidemic. Two of those were Jean-Francois Millet ad Theodore Rousseau who planned to stay a few weeks and stayed a lifetime. They found constantly changing scenery ideal for their canvas. Their art is now known as Plein Air Art because most it is painted from life outside. Their subjects ranged from the forests to the fields, still life, landscapes and especially the working peasants. This type of art was made possible by the invention of the tin can because they could now put their paint in lead tubes.

Millet’s two most famous paintings: “The Angelus” (celebrating its 150th birthday this year) hangs in the d’Orsay Museum in Paris and “The Gleaners” hangs in the Louvre in Paris. We stood in his home/studio today and felt history surrounding us with the clock that has been stopped at 6:00 pm….the hour that he died in that house on January 20, 1875; the same house where he painted so many of his famous works of art.

The village of Barbizon has remained a small village over the years; known as a haven for artists who attend the Barbizon School of Art and/or hang their shingles on the single main street for the tourists. All along the street…starting at the edge of town with a large rendition of “The Angelus”….the workers stopping in the field at noon to pray when the bells in the far off church ring….there are renditions of famous works of art by well known artists who have studied and/or worked in this area done in mosaic tiles. I’ve put a selection of them in the slideshow for you.

The Atelier Museum of Theodore Rousseau was closed today but we so enjoyed our time visiting Jean-Francois Millet’s Atelier. We then walked down the street and entered the Museum on the School of Barbizon that is housed in the original Auberge du Pere Ganne. The Ganne family ran a hotel that catered to the artists that were arriving and in exchange for rooms they painted; many times on the walls and/or furniture. There are beautiful examples in the museum. At the end of the tour we enjoyed a movie of life in Barbizon in the mid-eighteen hundreds….a bawdy group they were according to the film! We had subtitles and the film was done as in an operatic style…fun and we had the best seats in the house. Coming in a few minutes late we got the padded folding chairs on the side of the room while the others had wooden benches to sit on….more authentic but not nearly as comfortable.

We walked the street twice taking in all of the windows and old buildings….lots of photo opportunities as you’ll see in the slideshow. About 1 pm we went back to the car to enjoy our picnic lunch….I mentioned to Jim…I’ve not missed the stress of deciding where to eat on this trip! Then we walked some more trying to find some sites in the forest near the village; but after walking in circles we finally called it quits and headed back to the hotel for the afternoon. It’s raining right now…very warm all day and then the storm clouds gathered and finally open the gates. The rain should cool things off for this evening.

One final note on yesterday’s Blog: Sviatoslav Teofilovich Richter…we found the name on the Internet that runs the music festivals at the Grange de Maslay that we saw yesterday morning. The metal photo that we photographed was of him. Thought you might like that little piece of information. The Internet keeps us entertained in the evenings.

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