Repoussoir

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Jacob Isaaksz. van Ruisdael, The Jewish Cemetery (1655-60, oil on canvas, 141 x 182.9 cm). The tree in the right-foreground of Ruisdael's painting is an example of repoussoir that pushes the viewer's eye into the composition.

For metalworking, see Repoussé and chasing.

In two-dimensional works of art, such as painting, printmaking, photography or bas-relief, repoussoir is an object along the right or left foreground that directs the viewer's eye into the composition by bracketing (framing) the edge. It became popular with Mannerist and Baroque artists, and is found frequently in Dutch seventeenth-century landscape paintings. Jacob van Ruisdael, for example, often included a tree along one side to enclose the scene (see illustration). Figures are also commonly employed as repoussoir devices by artists such as Paolo Veronese, Peter Paul Rubens and Impressionists such as Gustave Caillebotte.

The Four Philosophers (c. 1615. Oil on panel; 167 x 143 cm, Pitti Palace, Florence). In his friendship portrait of himself, his brother Philip Rubens, Justus Lipsius and Jan Wowerius (left to right), the painter Rubens's self-portrait on the left is an example of a figural repoussoir that is further accentuated by the flowing red curtain.
Gustave Caillebotte. Paris Street; Rainy Day (1877, Art Institute of Chicago). The rear-facing man on the right with the tilted umbrella is an example of repoussoir figure leading the viewer's gaze into the composition.

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