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Antoine-Louis Barye, 'The Forest of Fontainebleau', 1850s-1860s

Key facts
Full title The Forest of Fontainebleau
Artist Antoine-Louis Barye
Artist dates 1796 - 1875
Date made 1850s-1860s
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 29.8 × 38.1 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Sir Hugh Lane Bequest, 1917, The National Gallery, London. In partnership with Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin.
Inventory number NG3233
Location On loan: Long Loan to The Hugh Lane (2019 - 2031), Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane, Dublin, Ireland
Collection Main Collection
The Forest of Fontainebleau
Antoine-Louis Barye

Barye was primarily a sculptor, particularly of animal bronzes. In 1841 he began painting landscapes in oil, and by the end of the decade he was regularly visiting the forest of Fontainebleau, south-east of Paris, where he painted alongside members of the Barbizon group of landscape painters. Although Barye never exhibited his oil paintings, including this one, he did show his watercolours of animals such as lions, tigers and elephants, which were critically acclaimed.

Painted in the 1850s or 1860s, this small oil painting most likely shows a gorge in the forest at Fontainebleau. The scene feels dark and claustrophobic and evokes an almost primordial terrain. We are looking up at a gently sloping hillside, which is dotted with trees, rounded mossy rocks and larger more irregular boulders. Barye was particularly drawn to the more remote and desolate sites in and around the forest, and these landscapes also appear in many of his animal pictures.

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