Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College

The Human Comedy: Chronicles of 19th-Century France

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The Barbizon School and Etching Revival

THE BARBIZON SCHOOL AND ETCHING REVIVAL Charles-Émile Jacque and Jean-François Millet were among the landscape painters who worked in the village of Barbizon on the edge of the Forest of Fontainbleau. Long before the Impressionists, they experimented with painterly techniques for capturing the immediacy of their experience of nature. The rustic world these artists depicted was undergoing changes wrought by railroad expansion and industrial development. These changes were slow and gradual, but significant, and yet they are not reflected in the Barbizon School’s depiction of peasant life as archaic, idyllic, and immutable. The prints displayed here depict manual labor, not as physically exhausting, but as dignified and ennobling, a form of quiet resistance to modernization and an antidote to the alienation of urban life.

Many Barbizon painters who experimented with print-making chose to revive the older form of etching, rather than embrace the more modern, increasingly mechanized and commercialized method of lithography. A “negative” process, etching required greater skill and patience than the “positive” process of lithography. In lithography, what the artist draws on the limestone tablet is the mirror image of what will appear in the final print. In etching, the artist draws by subtraction, scratching negative spaces on the copper plate before exposing it to acid. Etching had a highly skilled, artisanal, and fine-art connotation that lithog-raphy did not have at the time.

  1. Haymaking

    Charles-François Daubigny (French, 1817–1878) Haymaking, 1862 Cliché verre (salt print) Charles F. Olney Fund, 1972.4

  2. Burgundian Thatched Cottages

    Charles-Émile Jacque (French, 1813–1894) Burgundian Thatched Cottages, 1866 Etching General Acquisitions Fund, 1971.101 SCENES…

  3. Washerwoman

    Charles-Émile Jacque (French, 1813–1894) Washerwoman, 1850 Etching Gift of Gertrude and Lindley Hosford, 1953.185

  4. Woman Emptying a Wheelbarrow

    Camille Pissarro (French, 1830–1903) Woman Emptying a Wheelbarrow, 1880 Drypoint R.T. Miller Jr. Fund, 1943.128

  5. The Scourer

    Charles-Émile Jacque (French, 1813–1894) The Scourer, 1844 Etching Gift of Gertrude and Lindley Hosford, 1953.162

  6. Peasant Returning from the Manure Heap

    Jean-François Millet (French, 1814–1875) Peasant Returning from the Manure Heap, or Man Pushing a Wheelbarrow, 1855-56 Etching…