Breezy Day, Oil on canvas, ca. 1860
The artist responsible for this tenebroso (dark and shadowy) oil on canvas painting is non other than 19th century Frenchman Jules Dupré. Dupré was one of the chief members of the Barbizon School of landscape painting - a popular artistic movement which reached its height in the 1860s. Barbizon School artists were some of the very first to paint "en plein air" - a French term meaning "outdoors" or "in the open air." This was made possible by the invention of putting paint into tubes, which were easily portable and this freed painters from the confines of the studio. This would prove to be extremely important for painters of later generations, especially the Impressionists.
Perhaps one of the most common themes in Dupré's works is that of the majestic landscape. Indeed, he conveys the tragic and dramatic aspects of the natural world more successfully than many of his more well-known contemporaries. As can be witnessed in Breezy Day, his brushwork and usage of rich colors brings the scene to life with much power and energy. In addition, he uses impasto technique - that is, he applies paint so thickly that it physically stands out from the surface of the canvas - to achieve the appearance of unsettled skies and wind rushing through the landscape. Yet amidst the painting's overall livliness, areas of extreme shadow remain and instill a sense of intrigue and wonder in the viewer. This quality in Dupré's work recalls the tendencies of 17th century studio paintings in that it gives the scene an underlying sense of stage-like perfection.