On the Road With Corot: Six Landscapes

11 Feb

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, View From the Farnese Gardens, Rome (1826)

Note: click on any image to enlarge

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796-1875) was the leading painter of the French Barbizon School in the middle of the 19th Century. He is a key figure in the history of landscape painting, serving as a bridge between Neo-Classicism and Impressionism.  Claude Monet famously declared in 1897 that “there is only one master here — Corot.  We are nothing compared to him, nothing.”  Edgar Degas said in 1883 that “he [Corot] is still the strongest, he anticipated everything.”  “M. Corot’s compositions,” said Baudelaire, “which are always entirely free of pedantry, are seductive just because of their simplicity of color.”

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Shipyard in Honfleur (1823)

Corot is a great favorite of mine, and a terrific starting point for anyone interested in learning the art of landscape painting.  My favorite Corot paintings employ classic compositional devices such as a road, a stream or a line of trees (for example) to lead the viewer’s eye into and around  the painting.  A number of the original Impressionists were heavily influenced by Corot’s methods of composition — Alfred Sisley being a prime example.

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, The Road to Sevres (c. 1858-59)

Corot frequently used a loose painting style that captured mood and anticipated Impressionism.  Yet Corot was enamored of more earthy, natural color than most of the Impressionists.  Having said that, Alfred Sisley and Camille Pissarro often exhibited restraint in the use of high chroma colors, and to my mind this shows Corot’s influence.  In my own painting I find myself borrowing from Corot’s compositional style and trying to walk a line between the chromatic exuberance of the Impressionists and Corot’s restraint.

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Road to Sin-le-Noble (1873)

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, The Lane (c. 1850)

Corot is widely loved, and for good reason.  He is also one of the most forged artists in history.  I’ve previously related the joke about Corot — that of the 3,000 known works of Corot, 5,000 may be found in the United States alone.  In his lifetime Corot was famous for his personal kindness and generosity — and as a result you almost never hear anyone make an uncharitable comment about him.  Just one more reason to admire the work of Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot.

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Mount Soracte (1826)

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