The exhibition has been
co-organized by the
J. Paul Getty Museum and the
Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek

på Dansk

With generous support from
Augustinus Fonden
Aage og Johanne Louis-Hansens Fond
A.P. Møller Fonden
Carlsberg Bequest

A Swamp in Les Landes

About 1846
Oil on panel
The Walters Art Museum

The complete oeuvre of Théodore Rousseau (1812-1867) comes across as fundamentally unruly, filled with an experimental openness in his quest for new modes of expression. It bears witness to a time of crucial new discoveries in French art, where the otherwise unappreciated landscape paintings became one of the most important genres in art – a whole generation before the Impressionists arrived on the scene.

Landscape with Cottage

About 1865
Watercolor with crayon over
graphite on beige laid paper
The Walters Art Museum

Evening (The Parish Priest)

Oil on panel
Toledo Museum of Art

Forever with landscape as his pivot Rousseau comes across as radical in his quest to create an artistic expression that could match Nature in its depths and beauty. With a discreet chronology the exhibition explores how, throughout his life, Rousseau experimented across a range of techniques.

The individual works demonstrate a powerful technical vision which is clearly apparent, spanning time, media and format. Rousseau’s intensive work on his draughtsmanship forms the basis of a new painterly expression, compositions which, in reality, may be regarded as painted drawings. With its solid Academic base, yet reflecting an open mind, Rousseau’s life’s work comes across as an exceptionally fertile combination of a yearning rapture over Nature and technical talent.

Forest of Fontainebleau,
Cluster of Tall Trees Overlooking
the Plain of Clair-Bois at the
Edge of Bas-Bréau

About 1849-52
Oil on canvas
The J. Paul Getty Museum

Mont Blanc Seen from La Faucille, Storm Effect

Begun 1834

The frame on which the work is stretched is made of soft wood and the canvas is ombukket and secured with nails. The canvas is of medium quality and probably woven from flax, and there are no selvages. It has been primed industrially once or twice with white paint which is clearly visible on the right over-fold edge. The priming will have been applied with a palette knife and there are empty nail holes from previous over-folding in the edges of the canvas. Something suggests that the canvas was originally larger, since Rousseau’s painting continues around the over- fold. There is no trace of underdrawing, but any such may have been drowned in the successive paint layers. The visible contour has been executed with a brush and thin paint and is visible in places in the mountain landscape, and especially apparent in the foreground in the left and right corners. Rousseu has given the canvas an underpainting in nuances of yellow, earth brown and green with transparent paint. The motif itself is painted with both spare use of the pastose effect and some of the painting with heavier pastose strokes, e.g. the highlight, the white paint in the mountain landscape. The paint has been applied with brushes ranging in size up to 4 cm. The blackish colour of the mountains, possibly bitumen, is also thick pastose along the horizon, possibly applied with a palette knife, the highlight being applied with a brush. On the canvas’s right side in particular,there are signs that the paint has been scraped o , as an effect, down to the canvas, and thereafter covered with transparent paint.

... I am burning to accomplish this di icult task, to convey on canvas an impression of the infinite which surrounds me, to disseminate its benevolent effect among those who are less fortunate than myself! Unwittingly I give myself a tinge of the Godly, I cannot help it, and what carefully-polished notion might withstand the nature of a demi-god, which draws its quintessence from a bowl of milk, and breathes when the wind blows?

Théodore Rousseau
La Faucille, 1834

Details of Mont Blanc Seen From
La Faucille, Storm Effect:

In the 1830s, after a few years of Academic training, Rousseau assumed a position as one of Romanticism’s greatest innovative artists and a controversial exponent of the period’s new naturalism.

Restlessly inventive he skipped the traditional Italian cultural journey and found instead lifelong inspiration in his native land, the varying landscapes of France. This endowed Rousseau with an utterly special sensitivity and grasp of nature. From his early travels around France we see both works with intense colours, flowing expressive brushstrokes and lyrical, atmospheric paintings. Rousseau was attracted by Nature in its wild, impassable state and from the beginning of his career trees play a paramount principal role. In his late works we see some of his most iconic trees, with the lonely groups of them silhouetted against the sky and an almost supernatural atmosphere – often with the human being or an abandoned cottage as a parenthesis in the great landscape.

Rousseau believed that painstaking observation of Nature in one’s early years could be banked in the form of a savings account of experiences which would become the artist’s most important resource in his work. For this reason many of Rousseau’s later paintings are categorized as a kind of souvenir; as variations on a number of the artist’s favourite motifs and compositions – both the large Salon paintings and the small tableaux intended for sale.

In the course of his career Rousseau succeeded in winning recognition for his unorthodox methods. Despite these, which had traditionally been regarded as constituting an inferior degree of painterly thoroughness and an immediate lack of conventional finish, the works managed to answer crucial critics of the time and convince them that these were valid in artistic expression.

  • 1827 – 29

    1827 – 29

    Finds his vocation and starts sketching in the environs of Paris and studying landscape paintings in the Louvre. Frequents the studio of Jean-Charles-Joseph Rémond (1795–1875), who in 1821 had won the prestigious Prix de Rome for paysage historique, the idealizing, narrative mode of landscape painting promoted by the Academy.

  • 1830


    Travels to the remote Auvergne region in central France, the first of many trips around the country. The remarkable studies produced attract the attention of the well-established painter Ary Scheffer (1795–1858), who exhibits them in his Paris studio, helping to launch Rousseau’s career.

  • 1830

    1831 – 1835

    Begins exhibiting at the Paris Salon and is identified as a promising member of the new Romantic generation of landscape painters who were pushing the boundaries of style and subject matter as they explored the expressive possibilities of naturalism.

  • 1836


    Is refused entry to the Salon by its conservative jury, dominated by aging members of the Academy. For the next five years, Rousseau’s work is systematically rejected, making him a cause célèbre for progressive critics and artists.

  • 1842


    Extensive travels around France inspire some of Rousseau’s greatest work, though his public visibility remains practically nonexistent.

  • 1847


    Rents a house in the village of Barbizon on the edge of the Forest of Fontainebleau, which he had been visiting for years and which would become a second home for the rest of his life.

  • 1849


    Returns to the Salon for the first time since1835 and wins a medal. Goes on to exhibit regularly at the Salon for the rest of his career.

  • 1851


    Shows seven paintings at the Salon, his largest public exhibition to date. The December coup staged by President Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte (1808–1873), nephew of Napoléon Bonaparte III, marks the end of the Republic and ushers in the Second Empire.

  • 1855


    Enjoys major international exposure at the Exposition Universelle in Paris, where he exhibits thirteen paintings. Rousseau’s market grows rapidly.

  • 1867


    A capstone year. Durand-Ruel and Brame exhibit 109 of their newly acquired works to acclaim at the Cercle des Arts, an exclusive amateurs’ club. Rousseau participates in his final Salon and the Exposition Universelle, for which he also served as president of the painting jury. He is promoted to the rank of officier in the Legion of Honour and awarded a Grand Medal of Honour—dramatic testimony to the newly heightened status of landscape in French art. Rousseau dies shortly thereafter.

  • 1868


    The artist’s estate sale releases hundreds of studies, sketches, and pictures in varying states of finish onto the market. Over the next half-century, Rousseau’s art is widely disseminated over France, continental Europe, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Drawing was Théodore Rousseau’s lifeblood as an artist. It rooted his art in the close study of nature, because it served him to record the contours, volumes, and topography of particular sites, to describe plants and atmospheric phenomena, to note values of tone and colour, to refine visual effect, or simply to invent compositions. As a whole, Rousseau’s drawings not only attest his acuity of vision, they also mirror his aesthetic lines of enquiry into the representationt

Largely self-taught, Rousseau did not feel wedded to the principles of academic drawing, not, for that matter, was he bound by any graphic system. He therefore felt free to draw inspiration from vey di erent sources, and to experiment constantly with the medium, continually pushing its boundaries further. He did so even more boldly and decisively than with painting – he was extremely slow to finish his oils – exploring an extraordinary array of graphic strategies, materials, and effects.

La Chaussée du roi

c. 1850
Charcoal, grey-wash, brown-wash
heightened with touches of watercolor
Musée du Louvre

The Loing River at the Edge of the Forest of Fontainebleau

About 1830
Pen and black ink and gray
wash on laid paper
The J. Paul Getty Museum

The Drawings are possibly the most innovative in terms of their mark-making and technical hybridity, as they tend to blend freely graphic and painterly media.

Rainy effect

Between 1825 and 1850
Oil on wooden panel
Musée du Louvre

Théodore Rousseau (1812-67) developed and experimented with the landscape genre throughout his career. Technically innovative and visually original works became his trademark, so much so that, in the case of Rousseau, it is possible to talk about innovation in the landscape genre.

Dive in to a collection of special words which explain methods, technique and colours and open your eyes to Rousseau’s unruly nature.

  • Accent Colours
    Accent Colours

    Bright colours, such as orange or red, which light up in the painting.

  • Alla Prima
    Alla Prima

    Wet on wet. Oil painting which is executed without underpainting and intermediate drying.

  • Bitumen

    A naturally-occurring or arti cially-produced viscous oil product. Colour black or dark brown. Bitumen is used as a binding agent in asphalt. Inspired by Rembrandt’s (1606-1669) dark compositions Rousseau may have used bitumen in the painting Mont Blanc Seen from La Faucille, Storm Effect.

  • Black chalk
    Black chalk

    A soft, black clay slate, used for writing or drawing.

  • Charcoal Esquisse
    Charcoal Esquisse

    A compositional “sketch”. The esquisse was typically smaller than the eventual painting, and it was possible to work in an informal, spontaneous manner which communicated the original inspiration.

  • Conté crayon
    Conté crayon

    Invented in France in 1795 by Nicolas-Jacques Conté (1755-1805) for drawing and sketching. Contécoloured pencils are made from a mixture of natural pigments, kaolin, clay and graphite. Conté-pencil is highly rich in pigment and suitable for coloured paper or grainy surfaces. Because of their opacity, the pencils are ideal for drawing on darker paper, and their more colour-fast, waxy quality means that they do not crumble into powder like the softer pastel colours.

  • Drying Time
    Drying Time

    No oil painting dries completely. Painting in oils is a lengthy process and involves considerable waiting time, unless the artist is working alla prima, since oil paints have to be suffciently hard before it is possible to continue painting without smudging what one has just painted. Various pigments have various drying times. Drying agents (siccatives) can be added to the paint to reduce the drying time.

  • Ébauche

    A term used in art for the rst initial underpainting or rapid sketch in an oil painting.

  • Frottage

    The technique of rubbing. By placing paper or canvas over, for instance, a wooden oor, a leaf or piece of cloth the material structure can be transferred by rubbing with graphite or chalk.

  • Gouache

    Watercolour technique. The opposite of acquarelle colours in that gouache is an opaque colour.

  • Graphite

    Greyish-black crystalline form of carbon with a metallic sheen. One source is volcanic rocks, and it is used in pencils. A graphite pen resembles a pencil except that it does not have the wooden surround and consists entirely of graphite.

  • Grisaille

    Painting in tones of grey.

  • Ground

    The initial layers of paint which are added to the canvas to achieve a smooth, even surface, before a start is made on the actual painting itself. Grounds can be light or coloured and consist of a variety of materials. In traditional painting the ground is often dark red or grey. The Impressionists used whitish grounds.

  • Ink

    Coloured uid used for sketching and drawing. Ink is normally applied with a pen, or even a fountain pen or a brush. Ink is found as various compounds. One of the most widely-used types of ink, iron gall ink, was used from Antiquity up to the 20th century. Unfortunately ink has a tendency to destroy drawings as it rusts because of its chemical composition. Sepia ink comes from octopus and was also used in Rousseau’s lifetime.

  • Laid paper
    Laid paper

    Slightly ribbed paper which may have various colour tones, e.g. greyish-blue, beige or brown.

  • Nail Holes
    Nail Holes

    Holes in the canvas where it has been attached to a stretcher.

  • Oil Paint
    Oil Paint

    Paint in which the binding agent is a drying oil, often linseed oil. In 1841 oil paint in tubes was invented. This technical development was of crucial signi cance for the plein-air painting since paints were now easy to transport and use. Previously artists used to mix the oil and coloured pigments themselves in their studios.

  • Opaque

    Cannot be seen through, the opposite of transparent.

  • Pastose

    Paint which is applied with a brush or a palette knife in thick layers so that the paint forms a surface on the canvas like a kind of relief.

  • Paysage champêtre
    Paysage champêtre

    The rough, rustic depiction of landscape.

  • Paysage historique
    Paysage historique

    A genre within landscape painting which was the most elevated of the academic hierarchy. Particularly associated with mythological, literary or historical motifs, or subjects taken from the Bible.

  • Paysage portrait
    Paysage portrait

    Method which relates descriptively and in a down-to-earth manner to the surroundings. The landscape is not painted as a predominantly literary, historical, mythological or biblical narrative, but rather stands forth as “pure nature”.

  • Pigment

    A powder colour which can be mixed with a binding agent for the purposes of painting.

  • Plein-air

    A term for painting outdoors. Plein-air is often associated with the Impressionists, who were renowned for painting the landscapes in which they were physically present. This practice, however, never became a dogma, in that a number of the so-called Impressionists also preferred to paint indoors in their studios, where the light conditions could be controlled and the motifs carefully arranged. Artists of previous generations had also experimented with painting outdoors, such as the painters of the Barbizon school. Danish Golden Age painting is also among the schools which painted in the open air.

  • Sketch

    Initial study for, e.g. a painting.

  • Study

    Originally a term for musical exercises. In the art of painting the exercises become studies of a given motif, or a section of it which the artist can later convert into components in a large composition.

  • Transparence

    Can be seen through. That something can shine through a layer of paint. The opposite of opaque.

  • Underdrawing

    The skeleton of the painting. Drawing or sketch which forms the basis of the painting’s motif. An underdrawing is often done with pencil or charcoal, after which the artist then applies the paint. Traditionally, underdrawing has played a fundamental role in the history of painting; the New Painting, which was initiated by the Impressionists is often executed without underdrawing.

  • Underpainting

    The over-painted layer of colour in a picture.

  • Wash

    The paper is painted with a brush in gradations of a single colour tone, e.g. brown. A wash can be made with ink or water colours. The technique can also be used to create an effect of shadows.

  • Wove Paper
    Wove Paper

    Fine, smooth type of paper, which, in the 19th century in particular, was used for high quality note paper and for the printing of exclusive books. Its smoothness was due to the fact that the paper had been made sheet by sheet in a mould with a felt bottom – unlike the normal mould with a bottom of nely-woven mesh. Geologically-occurring substance with a high carbon content, formed from plant material. Drawings can be done with sticks of charcoal.

With a total of 8 works the Glyptotek owns an impressive, unique collection of Rousseau. The works are seen in a new context when they are experienced side by side with loans from other collections around the world. We see now even more clearly Rousseau’s absorption in specific types of landscape, his technical variation and, not least, how insistently he experiments with the same motif – the landscape.

The Glyptotek’s collection displays an extraordinary range in time, technique and format with the oldest small sketches from travels around France in the 1830s up to the 1840s – 50s technically sublime mastering of drawing and oil painting and up to the grandiose unfinished view from the Gorges d’Apremont in the Forest of Fontainebleau. What is quite special is the monumental masterpiece Mont Blanc Seen from La Faucille, Storm Effect, which seems to have been the work of three decades – begun in 1834 and reworked in the 1860s, a few years before the artist’s death in 1867. In 1906 Carl Jacobsen acquired the great work The Gorges d’Apremont, at a time when there was considerable international interest in Rousseau’s works. Already in 1908 this purchase was supplemented by the smaller work from the Auvergne. Thus Rousseau was, from the beginning significant in the establishment of the Glyptotek’s French Collection

Farm in Les Landes

c. 1844-47
Charcoal, dilute paint (medium undetermined), and touches of white oil paint on canvas (grisaille)

The Gorges d’Apremont

After 1862
Oil on canvas

Landscape from Auvergne, or Landscape from the Region of Lake Geneva

1829 -1830
Oil on paper, mounted on canvas

The Woods and the Apple Trees of Belle-Marie

c. 1860-62
Ink or water-based paint, with touches of oil paint, on canvas (grisaille)

Chestnut or Oak Trees at Barbizon

c. 1853
Black chalk on paper

Landscape with Group of Trees, Autumn

Black and colored chalks on paper

Mountain Pass

c. 1834
Oil on panel

Mont Blanc Seen from La Faucille, Storm Effect

Begun 1834
Oil on canvas

With its academic foundation, yet still open and searching in its expression, Rousseau’s life’s work stands out as an extremely fruitful combination of yearning observation of nature and technical talent.

The exhibition’s 56 works are hung in chronological order and stretch from Rousseau’s earliest works from the 1830s up to his death in 1867. There is a supreme individuality about the works, and when they are seen side by side, their technical variation is clearly apparent. Rousseau blends drawing and painting techniques and juggles with visual effects in a way that is highly original. The result is dazzling. Small drawings side by side with large paintings, powerful expression and intricate compositions with details that make one rub one’s eyes just that extra bit. Each work is given a number in the exhibition, which partly underpins the exhibition’s chronology together while referring to a text which goes into depth, to be found in the exhibition brochure. The exhibition’s raw wood barriers are in stark contrast to the heavy gold frames, and together with the coloured walls they style the exhibition rooms in such a way that each individual work comes into focus.

Should you wish to add words to images you can read more about the 56 works in the exhibition brochure.


Børsen 6 of 6 stars
Politiken 6 of 6 stars
Berlingske 5 of 6 hearts
Kristeligt Dagblad 6 of 6 stars
Jyllandsposten 6 of 6 stars