Forces of Nature

Rosa Bonheur Bordeaux 1822-1899 Thomery A Grove of Trees Watercolour heightened with gum arabic 22.7 x 29.1 cm Purchased as a gift of the Master Print and Drawing Society of Ontario, 2010 © 2012 Art Gallery of Ontario

Forces of Nature: Drawing in France during the Napoleonic Era

September 15, 2012 – January 20, 2013


Drawing in France underwent profound changes before, during and after the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars (1789-1815). Prior to the Revolution, French artists looked to Italy and the classical past for their inspiration. As Romantic ideas spread there was increasing interest in nature, and the forces of nature as metaphors for the dramatic changes. The horse became the quintessential symbol of romantic passion in the hands of Théodore Géricault, a pupil of the Napoleonic battle painter Baron Gros. This magnificent drawing is one of the greatest sheets related to his celebrated lost painting showing the race of the riderless horses along the Roman Corso. Following the Restoration in 1815, naturalism took on a benign aspect and many artists, like Rosa Bonheur, found a peaceful haven in the Forest of Fontainebleau.

This exhibition includes six major 19th century drawings acquired by the AGO in the past five years with special designated funds from generous donors.

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