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Art: France’s Fountainebleau region

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“In the Forest of Fontainebleau: Painters and Photographers From Corot to Monet,” at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., through June 8, reveals the inspirational influence the forest had over 19th century artists in France. The Impressionists and the Barbizon School both found muses among the rugged rocks, gnarled trees and flowing brooks as well as laboring peasants located just 35 miles southeast of Paris – and many of the scenes were captured by multiple artists. Take, for instance, Claude Monet’s view of “The Route to Chailly” (1865). (Ordrupgaard, Copenhagen / National Gallery of Art)
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Working in a different medium 13 years earlier, Gustave Le Gray photographed the same scene in “The Road to Chailly, Forest of Fontainebleau” (1852). The exhibition goes on to the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston in July. (Victoria and Albert Museum, London / National Gallery of Art)
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Again in contrast, Narcisse-Virgile Diaz de la Peña portrays man caught in nature’s fury in “Stormy Landscape” (1872). (Los Angeles County Museum of Art / National Gallery of Art)
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The same theme is explored, this time via photograph, by Eugène Cuvelier in “Storm, Fontainebleau” (1860). (Musée d’Orsay, Paris / National Gallery of Art)
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Hard but honest work conducted in the open air was a favorite subject of Jean-François Millet, whose paintings include “The Potato Harvest” (1854-57). In all, the Paris Salons of the 19th century exhibited 1,800 paintings of the forest. At more than 40,000 acres, the Fontainebleau Forest is now a national park. (The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore / National Gallery of Art)
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French landscape painter Jean Baptiste Camille Corot is credited with turning the forest into a laboratory for artists. Often traveling to Italy to find the dramatic scenery he craved, the Fontainebleau offered a close-to-home alternative. His works include “The Little Easel Carrier, Fontainebleau” (circa 1823-24). (National Gallery of Art)
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Monet’s works, including “Bazille and Camille” (a study for “Déjeuner sur l’herbe”) (1865), are featured among the exhibition’s 100 paintings, pastels and photographs. (National Gallery of Art)
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“The Sower” (1865-66) is among the more than half-dozen portrayals of peasant life by Jean-François Millet. (Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown / National Gallery of Art)
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Painter of “The Gorges d’Apremont (Forest of Fontainebleau)” (1857), Théodore Rousseau was drawn to changes in color and light as they varied by season and time of day. (Middlebury College Museum of Art / National Gallery of Art)
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Gustave Courbet’s “The Gust of Wind” (circa 1865). (The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston / National Gallery of Art)
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Jean Baptiste Camille Corot’s “Study of a Tree Trunk in the Forest of Fontainebleau, October 1822.” (Conseil général de Seine-et-Marne-musée départmental de lÉcole de Barbizon / National Gallery of Art)
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“Clearing in the Forest of Fontainebleau” (circa 1830), also by Jean Baptiste Camille Corot. (Kunsthalle Bremen - Der Kunstverein in Bremen / National Gallery of Art)
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