Leon Richet
French, 1847-1907

Leon Richet was born in 1847 in Solesmes, Normandy, Richet soon joined the artistic circle of Diaz, Lefebre and Boulanger. However, it is Diaz who made the greatest impression on Richet. There was a great difference in age between Diaz and Richet, which most likely explains the great respect on the part of the student for his master.

Richet’s best known landscape paintings, and thus those that are most thoroughly researched, are those set in the forest of Fontainebleau where Richet depicts a figure on a tree-lined path or standing by a lake or pond. In these paintings we can sense that Richet passionately inspired by Diaz’s work, strove to capture the profoundly agrarian aspect of nature, and that he sought to study the effects of light in much the same way the Impressionists would do only a few years later. For Richet, light plays an essential part, and at times he reached the same heights of perfection and quality as his master Diaz. Richet, however, never endeavored to solely focus on light and interpret its effects. Rather, what he emphasized were the strongest traits of nature herself. The smell of trees, the moss, and the marshes verily emanate from his painted forests.

Like many painters of his day, Richet traveled extensively. The list of works sold upon his death speaks to this point. Richet painted in Auvergne, he executed seascapes in Treport, and he traveled in Picardie, made his way back as far as Gueret in the center of France, and even spent time in Belgium, proving that Richet’s artistic interest was not limited to Barbizon and the Fontainebleau forest.

For his part, Richet continued into the next century and beyond. His painting, like that of Harpignies, became more coarse, his lighting more abrupt, and his subjects more rigid. He continued to paint tirelessly until his death in 1907. Diaz once said of Richet: “He will always have the best place in my studio, in the light.