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Paul Huet

(1803–1869, Paris)

An Autumn Landscape with Overcast Sky. Oil on canvas. 19 x 41 cm. With the red studio stamp.

Paul Huet, who was admitted to the Parisian École des Beaux Arts in 1820 and studied under Antoine-Jean Gros and Pierre Narcisse Guérin, is considered one of the founders of Romantic landscape painting in France. Of key significance for his artistic career were his friendships with Eugène Delacroix and Richard Parkes Bonington, who were important sources of inspiration. It was Bonington who introduced Huet to the English painting of the day, particularly through his 1824 visit to the first exhibition of the works of John Constable at the Salon in Paris. Michelet rightly described Huet as the “rénovateur du paysage français”.

From the 1820s onwards Huet devoted himself intensely to open-air painting. His first ventures in this field include the magnificent plein air studies which he painted in the park of Saint-Cloud at that time. As a landscape artist pur sang, Huet was an inveterate traveller, visiting such places as Normandy, the Auvergne, the south of France, Spain, Italy, Holland and Belgium. Significantly, he drew his main inspiration from the native countryside. The stressing of the element of mood in his landscapes and the artistic treatment of light in all its different textures make him a precursor of the Barbizon school – representing a generation almost a decade younger – and one of the main exponents of the paysage intime.

This oil sketch, rapidly executed from nature, illustrates Huet’s ability to achieve the greatest possible naturalness and spon­taneity with a remarkable economy of means. It is typical of the artist that he should have dispensed with any detailed topographical indications, thus making it impossible to establish where the study was made. On the contrary, Huet has created a universal, timeless evocation of nature. The dim, hazy atmo­sphere and the restrained colouring give the wide, deserted landscape a magic all its own.

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