born Paris 1812, died Barbizon 1867
Rousseau received traditional training first from a cousin and then from Jean-Charles-Joseph Rémond (1795–1875) and Guillaume Guillon-Lethière (1760–1832). He was already painting in the Forest of Fontainebleau in the late 1820s and traveled to the Auvergne, Normandy, Switzerland, and the Jura.
His work was first accepted at the Salon in 1831. Rousseau visited Barbizon in 1836, which was also the year that the Salon jury first rejected his submissions; he was again rejected in 1838, 1839, and 1840. Rousseau chose not to submit to the jury again, showing the next time only in the unjuried Salon of 1849, when he won a first-class medal. By then his work had attracted the attention of the writers Charles Baudelaire and George Sand and, importantly, the critic Théophile Thoré.
Rousseau divided his time between Barbizon, where Jean-François Millet was his closest friend, and Paris, where he kept a studio and where he could remain involved in the art world. Barbizon and its environs became his chief subject matter, and his compositions have the various imprints of 17th-century Dutch landscapes and Japanese prints.
In 1866 the dealers Durand-Ruel and Brame bought his early sketches, which gave him sufficient money on which to live; he was appointed president of the jury for the Universal Exposition of 1867.