I just love this particular painting by Monet, even though it is in some ways uncharacteristic of the work for which he is best known.
In this early painting, done when he and several other early Impressionist painters had come to join their Barbizon compatriots in painting “en plein air” in the forest of Fontainebleu in the early 1860’s, Monet has not yet developed the full dissolution of the image into a flurry of short brushstrokes that would characterize his mature style.
The beginnings of that approach are evident, particularly where appropriate to the canopies of the trees and the dappled play of light across the forest floor, but the trunks and branches are painted directly, with broad strokes and rich passages of dark color.
The painting gets it name from an appellation given to this particular oak, which was a repeated subject of Swiss painter Karl Bodmer (later changed to Charles Bodmer). Here is one of Bodmer’s paintings of the tree (from here).
In many ways I prefer painting styles that combine elements of the Impressionist approach with more direct painting (e.g. the “American Impressionists”) to the full-out style of high Impressionism, so I find paintings like this particularly appealing.
I had the pleasure of seeing this painting “in context” as part of the exhibition In the Forest of Fontainebleau at the National gallery in Washington a few years ago (see my post here), where it stood out as one of my favorites from the show and remains one of my favorites by Monet in general.
I also make a point of visiting it when it is on display in at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in new York, where it is part of the museum’s collection. In keeping with the excellent practices of their website, the Met has provided a wonderful high-resolution image of the painting.
A beautiful painting, and also an instructive example in the development of French Impressionism.