Until Louis XIV decided to settle down in his new Palace of Versailles with his court and his government, the french kings used to move constantly from one of their numerous castles to another one, even if the Louvre in Paris was their main residence. Fontainebleau, 70 kms south of Paris, had already a small medieval castle but the king François 1er , during the Renaissance, was the first one to build a larger castle in the Renaissance style, with the idea to make of Fontainebleau the “Rome” of France. He invited famous italian artists to paint wonderful frescoes directly on the walls of his reception rooms. One of them was Leonardo da Vinci. They have been recently restored. Each king, afterwards, added new buildings in the style of their time, mostly the classical style. They contributed to make of Fontainebleau a beautiful testimony of the french architecture over the centuries.
It’s on another architectural masterpiece of the castle, the double staircase leading to the entrance of the castle that Napoleon the first said his farewell to his old guard before going into exile after he was defeated at Waterloo by the British and the Prussians. His nephew Napoleon III was also very fond of Fontainebleau and came there to hunt in the beautiful forest of Fontainebleau.
Only a short drive from Fontainebleau is the picturesque village of Barbizon where the painters Millet, Rousseau and others used to come to paint the forest and the fields, on the ground and not anymore in their studio, to be closer to the real nature. They could carry their easel and paints easily thank to the new paint tubes. They would stay in the village inn which is now a museum open to the visitors. The impressionnists followed them on this new way of painting which was a kind of revolution against the academic style.