Sections 3 and 4
Farmyards - The courtyard as a living space
III - Farmyards, an air of the country
The farmyard is an open and ambivalent area that encompasses the main house and its outbuildings. The genre developed in the Netherlands during the Renaissance and owed its success to city-dwellers' taste for life in the country, albeit one blind to the poverty of its inhabitants.
Realist painters of the 1600s also took up the subject; however it was the landscapists of the nineteenth century who gave the genre its hour of glory. Corot made it a motif of modernity thanks to the sincerity of his technique. Boudin painted innumerable and very individual studies in the bucolicism of Brittany and Normandy. These blurred the boundaries between pervasive vegetation, humble dwellings and the traces of human presence.
At the start of the twentieth century Bonnard toured France, staying at the country houses of his friends, and translated on to canvas, using small brush strokes, the wonder of the natural world. It was the swansong of a theme which had run its course in the history of Western art.
IV - The courtyard as a living space
Historically, the social venue the most frequently depicted from the outside has been the tavern or public house.
The terrace, its extension, sees the same stories play out but in a lighter tone than those indoors. It is a theme dominated by the Nordic painters of the seventeenth century and, later, appropriated by the Impressionists.
Army life also lends itself to a type of genre art where the figures function in a wide variety of collective spaces, such as a cavalry school, a barracks square, or even a hospital for convalescing veterans.
Probably the most prolific place for discussion and observation has to be the concierge's lodge, and Duval Le Camus gives it a direct view over the courtyard of a residential block.
Finally, in the early twentieth century holiday homes started to afford ‘polite company' the opportunity to recreate a cosy cocoon far from the Parisian way of life where relations could be nurtured in contact with the natural world. Vuillard was one of the last eulogists of this privileged society.
© René joseph gilbert (Paris, 1858-1914),
The Fournaise Hotel-Restaurant. Chatou, musée Fournaise.