Narcisse-Virgile Diaz de la Peña
On View: European Art Galleries, 5th floor
This is one of numerous paintings that Narcisse-Virgile Diaz de la Peña made of the Forest of Fontainebleau. These compositions bolstered the myth of a pure nature, independent of human agency or presence, self-generating, and untouched by modernity or industrialization.
Diaz’s pristine Fontainebleau was mostly fictional. The forest had actually become highly popular with urban tourists. City dwellers were nonetheless eager for the escapism of such imagery, as one critic noted in an 1847 review of Diaz’s paintings: “We all have quite enough worries in our political and private lives to forgive the arts for reminding us of natural nature . . . eternally fecund and luxuriant which contrasts so cruelly with our artificial ways.”
In 1861, in response to a petition written by the artist Théodore Rousseau expressing concern that the felling of trees and construction of paths and signs for tourists were ruining Fontainebleau’s wild beauty, Emperor Napoleon III created a nature preserve in part of the forest, one of the first of its kind in the world.
Oil on cradled panel
17 11/16 x 21 5/8 in. (44.9 x 54.9 cm)
frame: 26 x 30 in. (66 x 76.2 cm) (show scale)
Signed lower left: "N. Diaz"
Gift of Charlotte R. Stillman
Narcisse-Virgile Diaz de la Peña (French, 1807-1876). Forest Scene, 1844-1860. Oil on cradled panel, 17 11/16 x 21 5/8 in. (44.9 x 54.9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Charlotte R. Stillman, 51.11 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 51.11_PS11.jpg)
overall, 51.11_PS11.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2022
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