The Barbizon School is a mid-19th century French school of naturalistic landscape painters. The school takes its name from the village of Barbizon, thirty miles southeast of Paris in the Fontainebleau Forest, a center for plein–air painting.
These included Jules Dupré, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Narcisse Virgile Díaz de la Peña, Charles-François Daubigny, François Louis Français, Charles-Émile Jacque, Henri Harpignies and Constant Troyon. An early Romantic orientation gave way to a Realist endeavor to paint landscape and peasant life directly from nature. The principal influences on the school were the Dutch 17th century masters, especially Salomon van Ruysdael and Meindert Hobbema, and the English painters John Constable, RA and Richard Parkes Bonington. The Barbizon painters were colorists; they had learned with the help of Constable and Eugène Delacroix that the shimmering details of nature defied the academic ideal of high finish and could only be caught with loose summary brushstrokes of contrasting color. This is exemplified by the work of Rousseau, Diaz, and Dupré, and was taken to the threshold of true Impressionism in Daubigny’s later paintings.
The Barbizon painters were initially rejected by the Salon and persecuted by the Academicians. Their acceptance by the art establishment began around the mid-1850s. Their popularity rose so steeply that a succeeding generation including Breton, L’Hermitte and Bastien-Lepage could make dazzling academic careers with paintings of rural life that closely imitated the Barbizon masters. Many Impressionists also found their early inspiration in the plein–air painting of Barbizon School; Monet, Renoir, Sisley, Seurat, Cezanne and Bazille all worked there for a time. The school also exerted a powerful international influence. By the turn of the century, Barbizon was the most fashionable “modern” school in the international art market.