Although his name is not as well known as other 19th century artists, Paul Huet’s legacy as a pre-impressionist landscape painter remains significant. Inspired by a deep interest in British art, particularly the watercolorists and the work of John Constable, Huet was an early colleague of Delacroix and Rousseau - artists whose work stood at the forefront of new aesthetic movements which made the landscape itself the subject matter, and thus anticipated the Impressionists.
Huet was born in Paris to a well-to do-clothier and linen merchant originally from Rouen, who provided his son with a good education and a job as a publisher in the hope that his son would be a writer and academic. The young Huet knew however that this was not the life for him and he enrolled in the studio of the painter Baron Gros where he met Eugène Delacroix and the young and talented Richard Parkes Bonington who had immigrated from England, bringing with him knowledge of British watercolor techniques. The three artists spent their free time painting outdoors in the landscape surrounding Paris, in particular Ile Seguin.
In 1824, the Paris Salon held an exhibition of British artists which included John Constable’s 1821 painting The Hay Wain, and the impact was enormous. Huet was able to combine techniques of British watercolor brushwork, thick oil impasto and the French tradition of pleine-aire painting and to establish himself by the 1830s as an innovative landscape painter. His work was accepted into the 1827 Salon and he would go on to exhibit there regularly for more than forty years. He traveled frequently, visiting Italy, England, Belgium, the Netherlands, as well as in his native France, constantly working outdoors in a variety of media, to capture the changing seasons and weather conditions.