Théodore Rousseau (Paris 1812 - Barbizon 1867)

Landscape with the Bridge and Château of Blois in Fog Sold

Watercolour.
Inscribed Joigny R. fbg St. Denis 16 / 9 fevrier(?) on the verso.
153 x 283 mm (6 x 11 1/8 in.)

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This watercolour depicts a view of the bridge and château at Blois, on the river Loire. In December 1837, on his return from a trip to the Vendée, Rousseau made several drawings of the royal châteaux of Blois and nearby Chambord. The large chateau at Blois, in its present form, dates largely from the early 16th century, construction having been begun by King Louis XII and continued by François I. A watercolour by Rousseau of the external circular staircase turret of the chateau of Blois, formerly in the Alfred Beurdeley collection, was until recently in a private collection in Paris1. Like the ex-Beurdeley drawing, the present sheet was among the small group of fifty-seven watercolours and pastels included in the 1868 Rousseau studio sale, which was dominated by a total of ninety-two paintings and nearly four hundred drawings by the artist.

The present sheet is an especially fine and vibrant example of Rousseau’s marvelous facility with watercolour, a medium he used only infrequently. With its use of subtle tonal variations of colour and liquid brushwork to create the effect of fog rising off the river, dissolving the outlines of the bridge and the chateau beyond, the watercolour might almost be mistaken for the work of Rousseau’s contemporary, Victor Hugo. Plein-air studies such as this were a vital part of Rousseau’s working process. He made use of a special folding easel with which he would travel, so that he would be able to draw or sketch any view or motif that caught his attention. Yet only a relatively small number of the approximately 750 surviving drawings by Rousseau were made as preparatory studies for paintings. Most were instead done as studies in their own right, the product of the artist’s fertile skill as a draughtsman, and were intended for sale to collectors.

Provenance:
The posthumous vente Rousseau, Paris, 27-30 April 1868, with the vente stamp (Lugt 2436) at the lower left, probably as lot 94 (incorrectly identified as Le Château de Chambord)
Anonymous sale, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 29 March 2000, lot 199
P. & D. Colnaghi, London, in 2001
Private collection, New York.

Literature:
Michel Schulman, Théodore Rousseau: Catalogue raisonné de l’oeuvre graphique, Paris, 1997, p.129, no.143 (as Bords de Loire), where dated 1834-1835; Hermann Mildenberger, ‘French Drawings of the 18th and 19th Centuries’, in Hans-Peter Wipplinger, ed., Die Sammlung Klüser. Zurück in die Zukunft: Zeichnungen von Tiepolo bis Warhol / Back to the Future: Drawings from Tiepolo to Warhol. The Klüser Collection, exhibition catalogue, Krems, 2014, pp.105-106.

Théodore ROUSSEAU

Landscape with the Bridge and Château of Blois in Fog

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