Auvers, Landscape with Plough, an oil painting dating from 1877 by Charles-François Daubigny (French, 1817-1878) has been acquired by the Toledo Museum of Art.
Daubigny lived northwest of Paris in Auvers-sur-Oise during his later years and painted the surrounding farmlands as early 1860. This landscape painting was finished during the last year of the artist’s life.
Not long ago, TMA sold two Daubigny paintings that had been kept in storage after being donated by a local collector. Proceeds from the sale, as the donor intended, were earmarked for acquiring a better example of the French artist’s work. When Auvers, Landscape with Plough was offered at The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF) in Maastricht this spring by the Galerie Sanct Lucas of Vienna, the Museum immediately bought it.
“Auvers, Landscape with Plough is much different from the paintings we sold,” according to Museum Director Brian Kennedy. “It is a fine addition that is in keeping with the high quality of our collection and happens to have the same subject matter found in Van Gogh’s Wheat Fields with Reaper, Auvers, which is part of our collection.”
Auvers, Landscape with Plough is a somber painting. Storm clouds rapidly brushed in dark tones of gray and black – even traces of green – weigh heavily in the upper left, while lighter color tones of gray and white, many smoothly applied with the palette knife, dominate at right where a partially blue-haloed sun brightly looms. The fields are a riot of greens and browns. A single plow, a few haystacks and a hay wagon suggest a human presence. The foreboding mood is made more so by two crows prominently flying at right and a larger flock visible in the distance.
Lawrence W. Nichols, the Museum’s William Hutton senior curator of European and American painting and sculpture before 1900 and the one who first spotted the painting at TEFAF, describes Daubigny’s Auvers as being laden with the fleeting aspect of nature.
“This Daubigny painting is shockingly forward looking,” Nichols said. “It’s truly a great painting. The surface is vibrant. You can see how the artist was being influenced by his peers who were Impressionists.”
Daubigny was the son and nephew of painters. He trained as an engraver before becoming a painter of landscapes. A member of the Barbizon School, his paintings were first exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1838 and continued to be shown there throughout his life.
Around 1852, Daubigny became friends with fellow landscape painter Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (French, 1796-1875), whose work would impact both his subject matter and style. In the 1860s, critics accused Daubigny of painting mere “impressions.” By then his work reflected his growing friendships with and admiration for Monet, Pissarro, Sisely and Degas. The admiration and influence went both ways, Nichols said.
TMA’s new purchase is among works that will be featured in the special exhibition From the Collection: 300 Years of French Landscape Painting that runs July 17-Oct. 11 in Gallery 18 at the Museum. Admission to the Museum and to the exhibition is free. For more information, visit toledomuseum.org.