In 1926, Folinsbee and his family spent the summer in a picturesque town, Bourré, located in the Loire Valley along the River Cher, thirty miles east of Tours. Folinsbee's eldest daughter, Beth, remembers picnicking on the riverbanks as her father made numerous sketches of the town and its environs. Bourré is one of the major works that Folinsbee painted from those sketches upon their return to New Hope that autumn. Like another major painting derived from those sketches, Bridge at Montrichard (JFF.842), Bourré signals a turning point in Folinsbee's style and palette. Throughout the early 1920s, Folinsbee had begun to move away from the tonal harmonies that characterize much of his early work and to incorporate a brighter palette of blues, oranges, and greens?largely on the suggestion of his friend Robert Spencer. The bright palette Folinsbee used for Bourré has a bleached quality that is evocative of the sun-washed oranges, greens, and blues of summertime in the Loire Valley.
It is also no surprise that the painting calls to mind the work of Paul Cézanne, whose work Folinsbee had begun to study intensely after 1920. In fact, the composition of Bourré is reminiscent of Cézanne's painting Ile de France Landscape of 1879-80 (Private collection). Folinsbee had read Roger Fry's Vision and Design (1920), in which Fry noted Cézanne's attempts to penetrate the surface of his canvases in search of underlying form and structure. In Bourré , Folinsbee was beginning to try his hand at Cézanne's technique, to move away from the heavily textured surface of his early work, to something more suggestive of his subject's underlying form and contour. When the painting was exhibited at the National Academy's 1926 Winter Annual, critics and academicians took notice: it was awarded the prestigious J. Francis Murphy prize for landscape painting. The critic for the New York Times later remarked on the development of Folinsbee's style as "outstanding" and notable for "its vigorous and mobile design."