Beginning in the 1830s, French artists such as Camille Corot, Théodore Rousseau, Jean-François Millet, Charles-François Daubigny, Jules Dupré and others made their way from Paris to the village of Barbizon in the Forest of Fontainebleau to paint its picturesque scenery and rustic peasant life. The Barbizon School, as these artists came to be known in the 1840s and 1850s, popularized rural subject matter in an era when Paris was growing only more congested, unsanitary, and politically volatile. Their bucolic landscapes celebrated France's great scenic beauty, while their ruddy and healthy peasant farmers conjured nostalgia for the nation's pastoral origins.
The Barbizon School not only created a longing for a bygone agrarian age, it also pointed to the future of French vanguard art. A group of landscape painters coming of age in the 1860s saw Corot, Rousseau, Millet, and Daubigny as role models for a new aesthetic and a new artist era. They would become known as the Impressionists and their debt to the Barbizon School would be unmistakable and enduring.