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Artist: Diaz de la Peña, Narcisse-Virgile 1 of 1

The Approaching Storm, 1870

Narcisse-Virgile Diaz de la

French, 1807-1876
Oil on canvas
33-1/4 x 41-5/8 in. (84.4 x 105.6 cm)
The Norton Simon Foundation, Gift of Mr. Norton Simon
© The Norton Simon Foundation

On view

Early in his life, Narcisse-Virgile Diaz de la Peña, the son of Spanish exiles who died when he was 10, was sent from Bordeaux to Paris to work as a colorist in a porcelain factory. This role served him well throughout his long career, in which he and his colleagues Théodore Rousseau and Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, among others, belonged to an unofficial group known as the Barbizon School. In the main, the group was dedicated to depicting the forest of Fontainebleau, located about 30 miles south of Paris. Diaz was particularly skilled at capturing the transient effects of light and weather, and undoubtedly his early training lent to his success. In Approaching Storm the artist brilliantly captures a moment when the sun makes a final attempt to stave off an impending tempest by breaking through the clouds. A sliver of blue sky is captured amid the white, purple, gray and black sky, and this small pocket is just enough to highlight the yellow leaves on one side of a tree and the sleeve and bonnet of the lone figure in the middle ground. Her presence, along with the cultivated field of golden grain in the distance, reminds us of the consanguinity of man and nature, rather than the authority of one over the other.

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Artist: Diaz de la Peña, Narcisse-Virgile 1 of 1