A laborer gathers wood amid the oaks and boulders in the Forest of Fontainebleau, a popular destination for mid-19th-century artists residing in Paris.
On sketching trips to Fontainebleau, artists captured the effects of light and shadow in a woodland setting. Love documented his firsthand experience of the site in an inscription located on the tree trunk. His interest in outdoor excursions continued in Indiana, where he painted The Sycamores (Broad Ripple), shown below, in 1878.
Love was the first Hoosier student at the prestigious École des Beaux-Arts and the Atelier Gérôme. From 1872 until 1876 he trained, painted, exhibited, and formed friendships in Paris.
John Washington Love arrived in Indianapolis with his parents when he was ten years old. After studying in the public schools and Northwestern Christian University, Love decided to become an artist. He entered the studio of Barton Hays and later went to Cincinnati to continue his studies. After a year he went to New York and entered the School of the National Academy of Design. He then traveled to Paris and was the first Indiana artist to enter the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and the Atélier Gérôme where he studied for four years. After six years of European study, Love return to Indianapolis and set up the first Indiana School of Art with fellow artist James F. Gookins. Love’s promising career was cut short with his death at the age of thirty.
While studying in France, Love often painted in the forest of Fontainebleau, outside Paris. In this canvas, light mingles with subdued earth tonalities in a manner tht is typical fo the French landscape painters of the Barbizon School. The single female figure appears often in Love’s landscapes and offers a contrast to the vast scope of nature. Her presence also suggests that this expansive landscape can be a place for quiet meditation. The artist’s signature, illuminated by sunlight, can be seen “carved” into the bottom of the central tree.
Mary Q. Burnet. Art and Artists of Indiana, New York: The Century Company, 1921. Reprinted by Unigraphic, Inc., 1981. ASIN: B002J7QO2K
By descent to the artist's niece, Margaret B. Gregor, Indianapolis, Indiana; given to the John Herron Art Institute, now the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, in 1935.
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