The site of this river landscape has not yet been identified. It may have been painted near Auvers from the artist’s floating studio or during a trip to northeast France that Daubigny made on his boat after mid-summer 1864.
Artist: Charles-François Daubigny (French, Paris 1817–1878 Paris)
Medium: Oil on wood
Dimensions: 9 1/2 x 17 5/8 in. (24.1 x 44.8 cm)
Credit Line: Bequest of Benjamin Altman, 1913
In early nineteenth-century France, landscape painting was narrowly circumscribed by an aesthetic code upheld by the conservative French Academy. Painters and sculptors were rigorously trained in the Neoclassical tradition to emulate artists of the Renaissance and classical antiquity. In the hierarchy of historical subjects recognized by the Academy, pure landscape painting was not a privilege. At best, artists could hope to paint an idealized nature inspired by ancient poetry. The grand classicizing subjects of the seventeenth-century painters Nicolas Poussin and Claude Lorrain presented other acceptable models.
Following in the path of Poussin and Claude, those eager to paint from nature went to Italy. There, among ancient monuments drenched in Mediterranean sunlight, they gathered to paint and draw directly in the landscape. Even if their open-air sketches retained the formal linearity of the Neoclassical aesthetic, those exercises, often made in the countryside surrounding Rome, freed artists to leave the studio-to fully experience nature, to look rather than copy, to feel rather than analyze.