Sunday, 13 January 2013


“I long for the countryside. That's where I get my calm and tranquillity - from being able to come and find a spot of green.” - Emilia Clarke
Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot (born July 16, 1796, Paris, died Feb. 22, 1875, Paris) is a French landscape painter. He was born to prosperous parents, but he proved unsuited to the family business, which his parents had hoped that he might run one day. However, his parents were enlightened enough at age 25 to give him a small allowance to pursue art training. He travelled frequently and painted topographical landscapes throughout his career, but he preferred making small oil sketches and drawings from nature; from these he produced large finished paintings for exhibition.
From 1827 Corot exhibited regularly at the Salon, but his greatest success there came with a rather different type of picture - more traditionally Romantic in its evocation of an Arcadian past, and painted in a misty soft-edged style that contrasts sharply with the luminous clarity of his more topographical work. By the 1850s he had achieved critical success and a large income, and he was generous to less successful artists. His naturalistic oil sketches are now more highly regarded than his more self-consciously poetic finished paintings. He is often associated with the Barbizon school. A master of tonal gradation and soft edges, he prepared the way for the Impressionist landscape painters and had an important influence on Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, and Berthe Morisot.
Throughout his life Corot found congenial the advice given to him by his teacher Achille-Etna Michallon “…to reproduce as scrupulously as possible what I saw in front of me.” On the other hand he never felt entirely at home with the ideals of the Barbizon School, the members of which saw Romantic idealisation of the countryside as a form of escapism from urban banality, and he remained more faithful to the French Classical tradition than to the English or Dutch schools. Yet although he continued to make studied compositions after his sketches done direct from nature, he brought a new and personal poetry in the Classical tradition of composed landscape and an unaffected naturalness which had hitherto been foreign to it. Through he represented nature realistically, he did not idealise the peasant or the labours of agriculture in the manner of Millet and Courbet, and was uninvolved in ideological controversy.
Late in his career Corot also turned to figure painting and it is only fairly recently that this aspect of his work has emerged from neglect - his female nudes are often of high quality. It was, however, his directness of vision that was generally admired by the major landscape painters of the latter half of the century and influenced nearly all of them at some stage in their careers. His popularity is such that he is said to be the most forged of all painters!
His painting above, ”Ville D’ Avray” of 1867 is characteristic of his misty, gentle landscapes that evoke great serenity and a life of Arcadian simplicity. The figures of peasants going about their business contributes to this effect, but the effect is realistic rather than idealised or grandiose. I liked this painting so much in my youth that I copied it in oils (quite successfully too!).

1 comment:

  1. Corot knew a bit about landscapes, didn't he? We still find them evocative and serence 150 years later. No wonder Monet, Pissarro and the other Impressionists saw him as a sort of mentor.

    I like Ville d'Avray very much. But I have been struggling with the notion of soft edged Arcadian simplicity, especially when combined with Romanticism. Those two terms used to be incompatible.