Isenbart was a skillful regional painter who combined aspects of the French realist tradition tempered by Impressionist sensibilities. A great admirer of Courbet who also lived in and worked in the Franche-Comté region, Isenbart was also a great believer in seeking to portray the “truth” of his subjects. In An Afternoon Stroll, two elegantly dressed women walk arm in arm along a path on a summer day. The lush and verdant landscape is expertly painted, as is the reflection of the sky in the slow-moving waters of the stream. The red umbrella held by the figure on the right, is a device frequently employed by both Corot and Courbet in similar scenes. This bright dash of color is a visual exclamation point that highlights the placement of the figures within the composition. In addition, it immediately indicates that these figures are upper class; they are out for a walk to enjoy and experience nature rather than to labor in nature. This marks an important shift in emphasis for French 19th Century landscape painting from scenes of rural labor championed by the Barbizon School to the daily life of the leisure class featured by the Impressionists.
Born on March 3, 1846 in Besançon into a modest family (his father was a furniture maker), Émile Isenbart studied at the Saint-François Xavier college and became interested in painting at an early age. He was a student of Clément (Antonin) Fanart. His style is very influenced by that of Courbet, Corot and members of the Barbizon School. He participated in the Salon from 1872, then in the Salon des Artistes Français. He received numerous awards. In 1883, he was elected to the Besançon Academy and promoted to Knight of the Legion of Honor in 1897. He distinguished himself in painting landscapes: landscapes of mountains and water. His work is not limited to the landscapes of Franche-Comté, he explores France, especially Brittany, including Brest where his wife was from.
Émile Isenbart frequently paints outdoors, in nature, working inside only in cold weather. He is, par excellence, a Franc-Comtois artist. The majority of his paintings are thus devoted to the region: The black valley at Consolation, Terrace of the Consolation convent, Forest of fir trees in the mountains of Doubs, The banks of the Doubs, The morning at the edge of the Loue, The Citadel of Besançon view of Micaud, The old Chamars, Marais au Bélieu, The peat bogs of Bélieu, The village of Noël-Cerneux, The little stream at Beure, Autumn evening around Besançon, Velotte, Herd at the water's edge, hay in Franche-Comté.
Émile Isenbart exhibited in all major cities in France and several times in Besançon. He is notably the author of large frescoes for the hall of the lost steps of the Besançon Palace of Justice. The artist died in March 1921 in Besançon.
Works by Émile Isenbart in public collections:
Chantilly Musée Condé:
- Hunter in an undergrowth in the Jura,, 1874, oil on canvas.
- View of Arcier near Besançon, oil on canvas.
Mâcon, Ursuline museum:
- Landscape of Doubs, the Black Valley, oil on canvas.
Cosne-Cours-sur-Loire, Loire museum:
- Les Bords du Doubs, oil on canvas.
Dijon Museum of Fine Arts:
- Valley in the Doubs mountains, oil on canvas.
Le Mans, Tessé museum:
- Path in a fir forest, 1871, oil on canvas.
Rouen Museum of Fine Arts:
- Le Ruisseau du Val-Noir (Doubs), before 1888, oil on canvas.
Museum of Fine Arts of Troyes:
- Evening by the Odet, oil on canvas.
Museum of Fine Arts of Rennes:
- Les Bords du Doubs, oil on canvas.
Le Havre, André-Malraux modern art museum:
- Le Soir, oil on canvas.
Paris, Louvre museum:
- Perspective of meadows with hills on the horizon, 1888, photogravure.
Dole Museum of Fine Arts:
- View of Dole, oil on canvas.