The Descent of the Cattle in the Haut-Jura Mountains
Théodore Rousseau (1812 - 1867), 1834-1835
oil on canvas,
259 cm x 162 cm
The Mesdag Collection, The Hague
It is difficult to imagine now, but this was once one of Théodore Rousseau’s most beautiful paintings. Chemical processes caused the painting’s deterioration: the colours soon darkened, the paint layers cracked, and the predominant green vanished. Mesdag nevertheless bought the picture in this terrible condition, along with a preparatory study in oil paint. This oil sketch gives an impression of Rousseau’s original intentions.
The painting caused quite an uproar in the art world. It was rejected by the jury of the annual Salon because they considered it to be unfinished. This was bad news, for at the time the Salon was the leading art manifestation in all of Europe. However, authoritative critics and artists considered the painting as an icon of modern landscape painting on account of its saturated colours and direct rendering of nature.