Théodore Rousseau was born in Paris on April 15, 1812. This French landscape painter, hailed as the leader of the Barbizon school, came from a family with no connection to the art world. Rousseau developed a deep love of the countryside at an early age. After working briefly in a sawmill, he decided to take up landscape painting and trained with Joseph Rémond. The latter produced classical landscapes, however, and Rousseau’s naturalistic tendencies were better served by the study of foreign artists, such as Ruisdael and Constable. He adopted the practice of making sketches outdoor — a foretaste of Impressionism — although he still preferred to finish his paintings in the studio.
Rousseau’s favorite location was the Barbizon region, at the edge of the Forest of Fontainebleau. By the late 1840s, this area had become the focus for a group of like-minded artists known as the Barbizon School. Headed by Rousseau, this circle included Corot, Daubigny, Diaz, and Millet. In the 1850s, Rousseau’s work achieved widespread recognition, fetching high prices, but he preferred to remain in Barbizon, campaigning to preserve the character of the forest. He died in his cottage on December 22, 1867, in the arms of fellow landscape artist Jean-François Millet.