Théodore Rousseau was a key member of the Barbizon School of landscape painters, who worked in the forests of Fontainebleau to the south of Paris. This painting is typical of Rousseau in its documentation of the painter’s sensational encounter with a forest scene, with the still waters of a pond the central focus. Rousseau observes nature closely, giving attention to the depiction of individual details and establishing a clear sense of its beauty.
Rousseau’s landscapes are tied to contemporary shifts in the ways people related to nature and the landscape. We can see this elsewhere in the boom of French regional guidebooks for tourists and in the many topographical surveys from this time, which sought to make sense of the nation as a series of particular landscapes and regional cultures. In each case, a sense of one’s self and nationhood was determined via movement through and perception of landscape.