During the second half of the eighteenth century, the practice of using oil paint on paper while working outdoors became popular among landscape artists. French artists often traveled to Italy to study, and it was there that they began making forays into the countryside to immerse themselves in nature and record their observations in small-scale studies in oil on paper.
When these artists returned home, they brought with them the practice of working outdoors, or in the studio, on a modest scale to capture the landscape and the ephemeral effects of light and weather conditions. Soon French artists began focusing on their native landscape, from inland forests to rocky coasts. These explorations coincided with a burgeoning appreciation of nature in France and the recognition of pure landscape as a genre. Such investigations of indigenous terrain laid the foundation for subsequent generations of artists—including those of the Barbizon school, who took the French landscape as their exclusive subject.
Exploring France is the second exhibition in a series drawn from the collection of oil sketches acquired by Morgan Trustee Eugene V. Thaw, who is also an honorary trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and his wife, Clare.