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Oudry's Landscapes

An important aspect of Jean-Baptiste Oudry's art that is present but not emphasized in Oudry's Painted Menagerie is the role of landscape in his compositions. As a painter of hunting subjects, Oudry had to portray not only animals, but also the forests and fields where the hunts took place. He seems to have developed a taste for landscape motifs, although he made very few independent landscape paintings.

Cassowary / Oudry  
Cassowary, Jean-Baptiste Oudry, oil on canvas, 1745
Staatliches Museum Schwerin
 
In this painting of a cassowary, Oudry depicted the bird before a large expanse of sky, water, and a rocky outcropping that refers to the cassowary's natural island habitat. The contrast between the lighter and more neutral tones of the landscape with the rich, deep colors of the cassowary's face and plumage serve to enhance Oudry's majestic presentation of the animal.

Cassowary's background is a rather generalized depiction of a coastal landscape, suggesting that it was mostly invented instead of being based on observation. However, Oudry paid particular attention to rendering the sky, subtly varying the blue, white, and gray tones to naturalistically depict sun breaking through the clouds.

A drawing by Oudry in the Getty Museum's collection, Landscape with a Stairway and Balustrade, demonstrates the artist's serious and sensitive observation of nature, particularly with regard to rendering light and shadow. This drawing is one of about 50 landscape drawings Oudry made during the mid-1740s at Arcueil, a ruined estate outside of Paris. Oudry captured the fall of sunlight with amazing passages of white chalk, applied densely on the staircase and more sparingly in the background sky and on the wall at left. While his painted landscapes have a more timeless quality, Oudry's Arceuil drawings preserve the immediacy of drawing in nature at a specific time and place.



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