On a bright, cool morning, a small, masted sailboat is being pulled ashore; a seated hunter pulls on his boots while his hunting party and their hounds makes ready to board the boat and depart for a day's shooting. Bidauld's luminous painting, which is signed and dated 1806, is a fine example of the sort of polished, idealized landscape epitomizing the neoclassical style, of which the artist was the major practitioner in France.
Bidauld was born in Carpentras (Provence), and moved to Lyon where he studied with his brother, the landscape and still life painter Jean Pierre Xavier Bidauld (1745-1813). In the late 1770s the brothers traveled to Switzerland where they worked for several years. By 1783 Bidauld was in Paris, where he met and probably studied with the preeminent landscape painter of the age, Joseph Vernet (1714-1789). In 1785 Bidauld traveled to Rome under the protection of the Cardinal de Bernis, and during his five years in Italy, he visited the hill towns of Subiaco and Narni, the mountains of Abruzzi, and went south to Naples. Throughout his Italian sojourn, however, his favorite place to paint and sketch was the Roman campagna, where he made many trips. While in Italy, the artist favored painting en plein-air (of which he was something of a pioneer) and he produced numerous oil sketches on paper, many of which featured in his estate sale. On his return to France, Bidauld made a sensation when he exhibited five landscape paintings at the Paris Salon of 1791; henceforth, he would contribute regularly to the Salon until 1844. He established a style from which he would little deviate for the remainder of his career, and his landscape paintings - whether they were 'historical' with an ostensible classical subject, or included contemporary genre elements, as in The Departure for the Hunt -- conform perfectly to neoclassical precepts, with cool and clear lighting, meticulously painted foliage and architecture and sweeping, heroic vistas.
Bidauld was a favorite of the French royal family until 1814 (his patrons included Joseph Bonaparte and Caroline Murat, and the Duc and Duchesse de Berry), but his renown was international and he also worked for Charles IV of Spain on decorations for the Casita del Labrador in the royal palace of Aranjuez.