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Forest Scene

Narcisse-Virgile Diaz de la Peña

European Art

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.
MEDIUM Oil on cradled panel
  • Place Made: France
  • DATES 1844–1860
    DIMENSIONS 17 11/16 × 21 5/8 in. (44.9 × 54.9 cm) frame: 26 × 29 1/4 × 3 3/4 in. (66 × 74.3 × 9.5 cm)  (show scale)
    SIGNATURE Signed lower left: "N. Diaz"
    COLLECTIONS European Art
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Charlotte R. Stillman
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Narcisse-Virgile Diaz de la Peña (French, 1807–1876). Forest Scene, 1844–1860. Oil on cradled panel, 17 11/16 × 21 5/8 in. (44.9 × 54.9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Charlotte R. Stillman, 51.11 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 51.11_PS11.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 51.11_PS11.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2022
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    RIGHTS STATEMENT No known copyright restrictions
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