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A Clearing in a Wood with a Rider on a White Horse and a Servant with a Pack on his Back



Lazare Bruandet (1755-1804)
A Clearing in a Wood with a Rider on a White Horse and a Servant with a Pack on his Back
gouache
AGLC 434 @ A.G Leventis Gallery

The one thing that every French schoolboy knows (or knew, when such things were taught at school) is that, on the day that the Bastille was stormed, on 14 July 1789, Louis XVI’s sole remark in his journal was: ‘I encountered nothing crossing the forest [of Fontainebleau], save Bruandet and some wild boar.’ It is therefore particularly piquant that this gouache, almost certainly of, or inspired by, a clearing in the Forest of Fontainebleau, should have been produced in that same year; and, all the more so, in that Bruandet rarely dated his works. Of the fifty or so sold at auction between 1877 and 1997, only three are both signed and dated (1780, 1793 and 1804), whilst of the two dozen-odd Bruandets of which there are mounts in the Witt Library in London, only one is. Strikingly, this, an oil of A Track through Woods to a Clearing with Figures, a Dog, and Cattle Watering,is also signed and dated 1789. (There must inevitably be a suspicion that this significant date has been a later addition, but neither with that painting or this gouache does that seem to have been the case.)  

This last painting is also similar in character to the present gouache, as are the oils of The Pond at Auteuil with a Hunt in Progress (Cherbourg-Octeville: Musée Thomas Henry)and Travellers in a Wooded Landscape.  

They all show slightly scrappy woods with gnarled and twisted trees, almost certainly drawn from, or inspired by, those in the Forest of Fontainebleau. The figures and animals in The Pond at Auteuil were inserted by J.-F. Swebach-Desfontaines (1769-1783), with whom Bruandet collaborated on a number of occasions; but there is no reason to suppose that he was responsible for the figures and the horse in the present picture (and nor do gouaches lend themselves to such collaboration).

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About the artist

He was a french landscape painter, active in Paris, and worked in the manner of Jacob van Ruisdael. He rarely dated his works, many of which appear to have been drawn from or inspired by the Forest of Fontainebleau.

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