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Oil painting - Pont de Batignies in the Forest of Compiègne
  • Pont de Batignies in the Forest of Compiègne
    Rousseau, Pierre-Etienne-Théodore, born 1812 - died 1867
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Pont de Batignies in the Forest of Compiègne

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    Compiègne (painted)

  • Date:

    ca. 1826 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Rousseau, Pierre-Etienne-Théodore, born 1812 - died 1867 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    oil on paper laid on canvas

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Constantine Alexander Ionides

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Paintings, Room 81, The Edwin and Susan Davies Galleries, case SOUTH WALL

Théodore Rousseau (1812-1867) was born in Paris where he trained with his cousin, the landscape painter Alexandre Pau de Saint-Martin (1782-1850), and subsequently with Joseph Rémond (1795-1875). In spite of progressively emerging as the leader of the Barbizon school, Rousseau was systematically excluded from the Paris Salon between 1836 and 1841. Between the revolution of 1848 and the early 1860s, Rousseau enjoyed a short period of prosperity with official commissions and was eventually made Officer of the Légion d'honneur in 1867, a few months before he died.

This painting is a fine example of Rousseau's early painted sketches and was probably made when he was still a teenager. It depicts the bridge of Batignies, crossing over the small stream le Ru de Berne in the forest of Compiègne (North-Est of Paris). This painting anticipates Rousseau's interest for an objective rendering of nature and already shows his personal manner characterised by a free and broad brushwork, which would become the hallmark of his art and eventually of the Barbizon school.

Physical description

Woodland scene: in the foreground a stream, in which a cow is drinking; a stone bridge above with a white horse followed by a woman wearing a red apron. Trees in the background.

Place of Origin

Compiègne (painted)


ca. 1826 (painted)


Rousseau, Pierre-Etienne-Théodore, born 1812 - died 1867 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

oil on paper laid on canvas

Marks and inscriptions

Later addition of the monogram lower right


Height: 23 cm estimate, Width: 33.5 cm estimate, Height: 52 cm frame, Width: 60 cm frame

Object history note

Constantine Alexander Ionides bought CAI 56 for £240, from Hollender and Cremetti, on 26 February 1883 (cf. Ionides' manuscript inventory, private collection). He bequeathed the painting to the Museum in 1900.

Historical significance: This painting is a fine example of Rousseau's early manner. It has been identified with one of the work exhibited in the Cercle des Arts, Paris, 1867, organised by Hector-Henri-Clément Brame and Paul Durand-Ruel a year after they convinced Rousseau to sell them 70 sketches with which he had always refused to part.
The date that appears in the 1867 exhibition catalogue was, according to Hélène Toussaint from the Louvre (written communication, Feb. 1973), randomly chosen and the monogram 'TH.R' was added on this occasion. Hélène Toussaint also compared CAI.56 with other two compositions: the early Telegraph Tower on Montmartre (c. 1826 - Musée municipal, Boulogne), one of Rousseau's first painted studies, and Pierrefonds dans la forêt de Compiègne, Private collection. Should this sketch be executed at roughly the same time as the Télégraphe de Montmartre, we can then assume that it was made when Rousseau was still a teenager c. 1826.
The subject matter was identified as the bridge of Batignies in the forest of Compiègne and the composition was very likely made after the motif in plein-air. At that time, Rousseau was regularly taken by his cousin, the landscape painter Alexandre Pau de Saint-Martin (1782-1850) to work in the forest of Compiègne before he entered the studio of Joseph Rémond in c. 1826.

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 on paper laid on canvas, 'Pont de Batignies in the Forest of Compiègne', Pierre-Etienne-Théodore Rousseau, France, ca. 1826

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

Schulman, M., Théodore Rousseau (1812-1867), Catalogue Raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, 1999, n. 4 p. 82
Burty, Philippe, Maîtres et petits maîtres: les études peintes de Théodore Rousseau, Cercle des arts, Academie des bibliophiles, Paris, Charpentier, 1877.
Kauffmann, C.M., Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, II. 1800-1900 , London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973, pp. 89-91, cat. no. 195.
Kauffmann, C. M., The Barbizon School, V&A Museum, 1965, p. 16.

Production Note

Attributed by H. Toussaint in 1873.


Oil paint; Paper; Canvas


Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Stream; Woodland; Trees; Landscape; Bridge; Cows




Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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