Landscape with the Château Gaillard
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Jean-Jacques Boissieu
French, France, 1796
Pen with black and gray inks, brush and gray wash, heightened with gouache and watercolor
12 5/16 x 17 1/2 in.

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Jean-Jacques de Boissieu carefully framed his motif: an abandoned fortified house in Lyon known as Château Gaillard. Viewed from below, the ruins loom over the landscape; two minute figures in the foreground heighten the castle's imposing presence. Bathed in clear light, the two women are paired with two equally tiny pots of flowers, small symbols of a tamed and cultivated natural world. But for the most part, nature cannot be contained. Foliage and trees spring forth from the craggy inclines and ruins. Nature and the man-made intermingle and are brought closer together by a shared palette of browns and greens.

As a draftsman, Boissieu is best known for drawings like this one: large-scale landscapes enhanced with gray wash and highlights of gouache or watercolor. Boissieu masterfully adapted his brushwork to capture nature's distinct and varied textures in a complex pattern of strong shadows and bright light under an extremely light and cloudless sky. Toward the left edge of the image, tiny dabs of blue gouache deepen the shadows.