Forest of Fontainebleau, The "Reine Blanche"


Antoine-Louis Barye (French, 1796–1875)


ca. 1860–1870


Oil on canvas


Support/Overall: 12 x 15 3/8 inches (30.5 cm x 39 cm)


Purchase with funds from Alfred Austell Thornton in memory of Leila Austell Thornton and Albert Edward Thornton, Sr., and Sarah Miller Venable and William Hoyt Venable, European Art Acquisition Fund, Friends of European Art, and the Phoenix Society

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Antoine-Louis Barye’s reputation as one of the best animaliers of his day ultimately earned him the respect and patronage of the French monarchy. Though his extant works reveal his affinity for untamed, exotic animal subjects, Barye also executed a series of plein-air landscapes over the course of his career. Beginning in the 1850s he accompanied various Romantic painters, including Jean-François Millet and Alexandre-Gabriel Descamps, to the forest of Fontainebleau outside of Paris. It was on such an occasion that he painted this scene of the twisted, hollow oak tree fellow Barbizon painters affectionately called Snow White (Reine Blanche). A readily identifiable landmark in many Barbizon landscapes of the forest of Fontainebleau, the tree’s hollow trunk proved an ideal storage place for art supplies.

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