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Oil painting - Landscape with road over a hill
  • Landscape with road over a hill
    Legros, Alphonse, born 1837 - died 1911
  • Enlarge image

Landscape with road over a hill

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    London (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1885 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Legros, Alphonse, born 1837 - died 1911 (painter (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on paper laid on canvas

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Constantine Alexander Ionides

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, room WS, case R, shelf 95, box R

Alphonse Legros (1837-1911) was born in Dijon where he entered the Ecole des Beaux Arts before attending the 'Petite Ecole' of Horace Lecoq de Boisbaudran (1802-1897) in Paris and then Ecole des Beaux-Arts. he started exhibited at the Salon in 1857. In 1863, Legros visited London where he found admirers and patrons, notably the Ionides family, and was ardently promoted by the brothers Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Michael Rossetti. An etcher, a painter and a sculptor, he succeeded Edward John Poynter (1836-1919) at the Slade School in 1876 and was naturalized as a British citizen in 1880.

This work is a fine example of Legros' landscape paintings, which shows the influence of the Realist movement inaugurated in France by Gustave Courbet (1819-1877). It was probably inspired by the countryside around Dijon where he spent his youth. This work is a good example of Legros' late period in which landscape paintings became a dominant thematic reminiscent of the French countryside, particularly interesting here is the rendering of the large atmospheric sky.

Physical description

A small hill on the summit of which are two trees with autumnal foliage, and the dead trunk of a third. A path passes over the shoulder of the hill on the right hand-side; cloudy sky.

Place of Origin

London (made)


ca. 1885 (painted)


Legros, Alphonse, born 1837 - died 1911 (painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

Oil on paper laid on canvas

Marks and inscriptions

'A Legros'
Signed by the artist


Height: 31 in approx., Width: 35 in approx.

Object history note

The painting is not mentioned in C.A.Ionides's inventory of his collection (private collection), indicating that it perhaps belonged to his father, or that it could have been a present from the artist, a lifelong friend of C. A. Ionides. Bequeathed by Constantine Alexander Ionides, 1900.

Ref: Basil S. Long, Catalogue of the Constantine Alexander Ionides collection.Vol. 1, Paintings in oil, tempera and water-colour, together with certain of the drawings, London : Printed under the authority of the Board of Education, 1925.
C. Monkhouse, ‘The Constantine Ionides Collection’ in Magazine of Art, vii, 1884, pp. 36-44, 208-214.

The collection formed by Constantine Ionides includes works of a wide variety of schools, periods and artists. His collection includes Old Masters, 17th century works, contemporary British works and French 19th century works. Constantine formed friendships with artists of the day, especially Legros, who, having spent 17 years in Britain, became a naturalise British citizen. Constantine proved a stable and generous buyer of Legros work, while Legros, in turn, became an advisor in the matters of art to the attentive Constantine. Under the influence of Legros Constantine developed a keen interest in French 19th century paintings purchasing works by Delacroix, Degas, Millet and Rousseau.

Constantine’s plans concerning his collection conformed to a more ‘public-welfare’ vein of thought than his father or brother. He decided to donate his collection to the Victoria & Albert Museum, instead of privately distributing it or disposing of it in a Sales room.

His will states:

'All my pictures both in oil and water colors and crayon or colored chalks (but subject as to my family portraits to the interest herein before given to my said Wife) and all my etchings drawings and engravings to the South Kensington Museum for the benefit of the nation to be kept there as one separate collection to be called "The Constantine Alexander Ionides Collection" and not distributed over the Museum or lent for exhibition. And I desire that the said Etchings Drawings and Engravings shall be framed and glazed by and at the expense of the authorities of the Museum so that Students there can easily see them.'

The collection bequeathed to the museum in 1901 comprises 1138 pictures, drawing and prints, to which a further 20 items were added on the death of his widow in 1920. The works are listed in the V&A catalogue of the Constantine Alexander Ionides collection.

Historical significance: This painting is a fine example of Legros' landscape paintings. It shows a landscape surrounding Dijon, where Legros spent much of his childhood, with its low hills, rivers and patches of woodland. Landscape, with Road over a Hill is an oil sketch on paper, possibly a pair to Landscape, with Stream and Hills (CAI 27).
Despite moving permanently to England in 1863, Legros largely continued to paint French themes throughout his career: scenes of provincial French life or unidentified landscape scenes without figures are reminiscent of his early reliance on Courbet. Such paintings were either based on undocumented visits to France in the 1880s, or, more likely, recreate memories of the landscape surrounding Dijon, a method which can be traced to the teaching Legros received from Boisbaudran. The absence of specific location in this painting can be contrasted with Hampstead Heath (818-1877), a timed study taken in front of students on Hampstead Heath while Legros was teaching at the Slade School.
Landscape features especially strongly in his lithographs and engravings in the last 20 years of his life, when he generally preferred drawing, etching and watercolour to oil painting.
With CAI 28, the present work forms part of the extensive collection of works by Legros which entered the museum as part of the Ionides bequest in 1900. Legros formed a close friendship with Ionides in London, and also became a firm adviser to the collector between 1878 and 1884. He encouraged the development of Ionides's taste for 19th-century French painting and his acquisition of works by Jean-Francois Millet, Ingres, Delacroix, Courbet, Théodore Rousseau and Degas. Ionides was also Legros's most important patron, buying many of his paintings, watercolours and etchings and assembling the largest collection of the artist's work in his lifetime. Landscape, with Stream and Hills and CAI 28 were some of the last works by Legros to enter the Ionides collection, as Ionides acquired no new works from Legros after 1882.

Historical context note

19th-century French art is marked by a succession of movements based on a more or less close relationship with nature. At the beginning of the century, Romantic artists were fascinated by nature they interpreted as a mirror of the mind. They investigated human nature and personality, the folk culture, the national and ethnic origins, the medieval era, the exotic, the remote, the mysterious and the occult. This movement was heralded in France by such painter as Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863). In its opposition to academic art and its demand for a modern style Realism continued the aims of the Romantics. They assumed that reality could be perceived without distortion or idealization, and sought after a mean to combine the perception of the individual with objectivity. This reaction in French painting against the Grand Manner is well represented by Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) who wrote a 'Manifesto of Realism', entitled Le Réalisme published in Paris in 1855. These ideas were challenged by the group of the Barbizon painters, who formed a recognizable school from the early 1830s to the 1870s and developed a free, broad and rough technique. They were mainly concerned by landscape painting and the rendering of light. The works of Narcisse Virgile Diaz de la Peña (1807-1876), Jules Dupré (1811-1889), Théodore Rousseau (1812-1867), Constant Troyon (1810-1865) and Jean-François Millet (1814-1875) anticipate somehow the plein-air landscapes of the Impressionists.

Descriptive line

Oil painting, 'Landscape with Road over a Hill', Alphonse Legros, ca. 1885

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

B.S. Long, Catalogue of the Constantine Alexander Ionides collection. Vol. 1, Paintings in oil, tempera and water-colour, together with certain of the drawings, London, 1925, p. 34.
Summary Catalogue of British Paintings, London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973, p. 80-81.


Oil paint; Paper; Canvas


Oil painting




Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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