Known as the “Village of Painters,” Barbizon is a little town of around 1,500 people perched on the edge of the Fountainebleau Forest just outside Paris. Famous for the Barbizon art movement of French Revolution fame, Barbizon was the place where many artists headed at the time. Inspired by the rural paintings of English painter John Constable, the school of artists found the village’s fields and surrounding Fountainebleau Forest central to their work.
The area’s most famous painters, Théodore Rousseau and Jean-François Millet, made their homes, lived their lives and ultimately died in the village. Millet is especially famous for his paintings of peasant figures working the fields. He purposely hid the peasant’s faces and gave them bent figures to show their anonymity and the difficulty of their lives, a huge step away from the formal aristocrat portraits of the time.
The Barbizon movement of 1830-1870 also inspired the next generation of French artists; impressionists such as Monet, Renoir and Alfred Sisley all discovered the joys of painting in the Fontainebleau Forest.
In Barbizon village, it’s popular to take a stroll down the Grand Rue to see its stone houses and discover its restaurants. There are several museums and artists’ studios to visit in town, too.
Barbizon is located about 35 miles and 45 minutes southeast of Paris. If arriving by public transport, SNCF trains leave every 30 minutes from Paris’ Gare de Lyon to Fontainebleau-Avon. From there, a taxi can be taken to the village of Barbizon.