Lhermitte, Les Glaneuses, oil on canvas, Nobility of the peasant exhibition catalog cover



From the Desk of Michael Schwartz
The Bridge to Impressionism

One of the most important art movements of the past two centuries—and simultaneously one of the most under-appreciated, is the
19th-century Barbizon movement. This pivotal development is what laid the foundation for Impressionism, which could not have occurred without the tectonic changes that occurred largely in the French village of Barbizon.

Barbizon is a small art-focused village I have visited dozens of times in my life. It is located just south of Paris at the edge of the Forest of Fontainebleau, which up to the French Revolution had been a royal hunting ground. The art colony developed as artists sought an escape from the crowded and stressed city in favor of a more creative, free atmosphere. The exodus allowed painting to occur away from the oppressive formal academic structure
that limited artist expression.

What developed was en plein air—“painting in the open air”. Now artists could work in both the literal and figurative fresh air. They were free to take their canvases and newly-invented tubes of paint, into the forest in order to capture a single, ephemeral moment in time.  Now they could focus on subjects that had up to that point been considered peripheral canvas-fillers. Trees, clouds, sunsets, and ordinary people doing ordinary things were now venerated.

To fulfill the needs of the new upstart artists, paint manufacturers sought to expand their offerings. They were able to create colors that had been impossible previously. The combination of new artistic insights with exciting, vibrant colors fostered an atmosphere where the soon-to-emerge Impressionist artists could soar in ways that were previously unimaginable. The use of color was explored and art developed in leaps and bounds. Of course, three of the great hallmarks of modern painting, and indeed Post-Impressionism, were explosive colors, captured in a moment in time, outdoors—the very three doors opened by the Barbizon School.

What is so exciting to me is that with the lack of awareness of the movement comes an undervaluation of its art. Savvy collectors are now recognizing that with the stratospheric prices commanded by Impressionist and modern painting, there lies a great opportunity to collect great, historic and museum-quality art at reasonable prices.  Collecting at the beginning of the upward curve of valuation makes a great deal more sense than doing so after the market becomes fully mature.

Galerie Michael is pleased to be able to exhibit these Barbizon and 19th century master works in a world-class show. To further share the insights of the Barbizon/Plein Air movement, we will also be graced with a lecture by the University of Hertfordshire’s Dr. Steven Adams, one of the world’s defining scholars, experts and authors on the Barbizon/Plein Air movement.

We look forward to sharing this exciting opportunity with you!