The Charcoal Burner's Hut


Théodore Rousseau ( French, 1812 - 1867 )

About 1850
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General Description

"I could hear the voices of the trees . . . their unexpected movements, their various shapes, even their particular attraction toward light, which had suddenly revealed the language of the forest to me. . . . I wanted to converse with them and be able to tell myself that I had touched on the secret of their greatness through the language of painting.”

—Théodore Rousseau

This painting is typical of the landscapes of the Barbizon school, a group of French painters who worked in and around the Forest of Fontainebleau, specifically the village of Barbizon about thirty-five miles southeast of Paris, in the mid-19th century. Their goals were to rediscover the magic of untouched nature and to celebrate everyday rural life in all its commonplace, unembellished details. In this work, we see a grove of oaks, their gnarled trunks dramatically illuminated by a few shafts of light that penetrate the otherwise somber forest. The presence of man is almost completely absent from this painting, except for the small hut next to a craggy oak tree, barely visible in the wild, overgrown landscape. The artist’s loose brushwork and attention to rendering the fleeting effects of light and atmosphere were influential in the development of Impressionism in the 1870s.

Adapted from

  • DMA label copy.

  • Heather MacDonald, DMA label copy, 2010.

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