East Bergholt is twinned with Barbizon in France, a commune town in the Seine-et-Marne in north-central France, located near the Fontainebleau Forest, its twinning agreement, signed over 40 years ago and was the driving force of Lady Anne Wake-Walker who was a guiding light of the twinning agreement for almost all of that time, as she had lived in Paris and spoke fluent French.
Around 1820 the village of Barbizon was discovered by Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, a well known French landscape and portrait painter and printmaker at the time, who paved the way for other painters to come to the town which included two other French painters Theodore Rousseau and Jean-Francois Millet, who both driven from Paris by poverty and lack of success, made their homes at Barbizan for many years till their death.
Rousseau and Millet created The Barbizon School of painters, initially an informal group of artists active between 1830-1870 who would gather to paint in the forest of Fontainebleau. They attracted a large following of landscape and animal painters, some going to live at Barbizon, others only visiting.
Meanwhile in 1824 the ‘Salon de Paris’ (a famous art exhibition ran in Paris 1740-1890) exhibited works of John Constable (The Hay Wain). His rural scenes greatly influenced some of the younger artists at the time moving them away from formalism to draw directly from nature, so during the French Revolution many painters gathered at Barbizon to follow Constables ideas making nature the subject of their paintings and the French landscape became a major theme of the ‘Barbizon painters’, which over the years included many well known artists such as Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, and even post impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh.
The inhabitants of the town even today are called ‘Barbizonais’, and the artists from that initial period are still now referred to as ‘Fontainebleau’s’ by historians.
The school is still active and owes its fame to the 19th century landscape painters. Barbizon town is a popular tourist spot with its main street a succession of beautiful homes, shops, restaurants and art galleries, nestled of the edge of the stunning Fontainebleau Forest.
Today the East Bergholt Barbizon twinning group is made up of families from both villages. They meet for long weekends every 2 years or so, alternating in each village. The families stay with each other and meet up for excursions and whole group dinners.
The aim of the twinning is to break down barriers between nations, and as friends have got to know each other well over the years, have learnt about our history, geography, politics and how to communicate with each other even without a common language.
Many East Bergholt families have joined in these events over the years. One trip consisted of about 80 people from East Bergholt in 2 coaches, and the last time we visited Barbizon in 2019, there were about 40 people representing East Bergholt. The twinning between two villages is still very strong and despite Brexit, have been assured by Barbizon that we will still be very welcome there’
There are several gifts displayed around the village of Barbizon, mostly collected along the back wall of the ‘Benneworth’ lounge, and here in the lower room of the Lambs School.
The Barbizon Twinning Committee whose current secretary is Michele Steel are always looking for volunteers and participants and run a fund raising quiz annually to raise monies to help village children afford these trips.