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The Dreamy Landscapes of Trouillebert

La barque (Trouillebert)
Rowboat, ca. 1800's
Born on 1829 in Paris, France Paul Désiré Trouillebert was a French Barbizon painter. Often compared to Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot for his very similar treatment of mood and trees, in fact one of Trouillebert's paintings was sold by a collector to the son of Alexandre Dumas (author of The Three Musketeers) as a Corot with a forged signature. However, on this post I will be examining in closer detail why the style of Trouillebert is much more individual and distinct from Corot.

In Rowboat above, Trouillebert varies the thickness and variety of the trees in this asymmetrical composition. What is beautiful about this painting is how the main source of light is a mysterious white glow at the horizon line of this very overcast day with the clouds becoming warmer as they near the top of the painting before turning dark to suggest imminent rain. Fishermen on a boat is not an entirely original theme, admittedly but the way in which Trouillebert's palette conjures such a strong mood we don't even really notice them. The mood itself is the subject. Activating the senses. Feeling the moisture in the air. Trouillebert uses a muted array of greens with enough value contrast and warmth to draw our eye in and allow the distant sky to recede. Look below at the closeup of brushwork along the bank underneath the trees leads our eye to the water:
          detail

Trouillebert also uses very subtle reflections in order to maintain our focus on the actual trees. Note below how he varies both the line width of each brushstroke and also the thickness and dilution of the paint:

          detail

Trouillebert is truly a master of mood in taking a very simple bucolic theme and immersing the viewer into the painting. He understands intrinsically that the landscape is more than merely postcard or aesthetic but visceral and subjective...dreamlike.



Baigneuses dans un paysage

Here is a more typical homage to the mythological Corot. Trouillebert here creates the illustion of a windy day by the swaying angles of the trees against that ominous dark sky. It takes a moment before we realize there are two nude women in the grass nestled in the middleground, and it is precisely this that adds to the dream-like quality of this painting. What is also interesting is the range of greens that Trouillebert uses here despite the lack of sunshine. Look below at the closeup...golden sparkle of brushwork in those clouds:
          detail


Paul-Désiré Trouillebert - Au bord du lac
By the lake
Trouillebert's warm palette is beautiful in this painting study. Thick, impasto brushstrokes yet Trouillebert manages to keep the edges muted to magnify the dreamy state. Note how the branches are still distinct and sharp. Compare this with Monet, who often used a very cool palette and rarely in this manner, Trouillebert somehow captures warmth with the impending overcast suggestion of rain in the distance. Adding the figure and cow adds a pastoral element that humanizes this otherwise desolate and mysterious place.


Paul-Désiré Trouillebert - A quiet backwater
A quiet backwater

A monotone palette with a warm grey sky that reflects onto the water, Trouillebert creates a mood that takes us back in time. The range of ochres and umbers here seems almost muddy yet Trouillebert makes it sing beautifully. Compositionally, the way our eye zigzags across the trees from left to right to left and the figures before looking up to that spellbinding sky...this is a backwater I would love to experience in person. Trouillebert makes quick strokes of the figures for scale and interest yet still pays attention to posture and body language, an important thing to remember.


Trouillebert, Paul Desire - Bank of the Loire Near Chouze
Bank of the Loire Near Chouze

Words are failing me as I look at this painting. What a range of values and tones with a warm sky that is painted with a big brush...the way that sky glows behind that tree...this is surreal. Although the main tree appears as if unfinished it somehow does not detract from the painting in any way whatsoever. Where Corot used smaller brushes and very subtle blending in his skies, with more finess in his trees and in the earth...Trouillebert is a master of loose brushwork and textures. Look at the texure he achieves below:
          detail

          detail Paul-Désiré Trouillebert - Paysage fluvial boisé avec agriculteur
Wooded river landscape with farmer
The sky is once again painted in large, loose brushstrokes yet feels right. Trouillebert has a remarkable sense of tone and temperature despite appearing to be rather simplistic...look closely and you see the painter's painter. The foliage of those trees are almost buttery and pastel green yet complement the darker tones of the larger tree. Much of Trouillebert's work appears to be in private collections today but it would be thrilling to see his work in person, up close...

Underrated masters like Trouillebert evade the popularity of Impressionist legends and although no one can take the place of Corot's genius, Trouillebert is in a class by himself in creating not just landscapes, but dreams that invite us in.

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