Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot

1796 - 1875

Born in Paris on 17 July 1796, Corot was the son of a cloth merchant and a milliner. After an education at the Collège de Rouen and two abortive apprenticeships with drapers, he was given the financial freedom at the age of 26 to devote himself to painting.

Portrait of Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, ‘Self Portrait’, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence
© The Art Archive / Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence / Gianni Dagli Orti

He first studied with the landscapist Achille Etna Michallon, and after his death with Jean-Victor Bertin (around 1767 to 1842), both pupils of Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes. In 1825 to 1828 Corot made the trip to Italy considered so essential to the formation of a landscape artist, spending time in Rome and the Campagna, before travelling to Naples. In 1827 he sent his first paintings to the Paris Salon: View at Narni (Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada) and Roman Campagna (Zurich, Kunsthaus).

Corot returned to Italy in 1834 and 1843. He also travelled extensively in France, to Normandy, Provence, the Morvan region in Burgundy, to which he returned for many years, and to north-east France in 1871 during the Commune. In 1854 he travelled in Holland and Belgium; he regularly visited Switzerland, and in 1862 he was in London.

During these trips Corot painted in the open air and filled numerous notebooks with drawings. His early oil sketches, such as those painted in Italy, were clearly defined and fresh, using bright colours in fluid strokes. During the winter months he worked in the studio on ambitious mythological and religious landscapes destined for the salon. Hagar in the Wilderness (New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art), exhibited at the salon of 1835, is characteristic of his early work, and, like his open-air studies, features the clear-cut forms and colours of academic painting.

His reputation was established by the 1850s, which was also the period when his style became softer and his colours more restricted. In his late studio landscapes, which were often peopled with bathers, bacchantes and allegorical figures, he employed a small range of colours, often using soft coloured greys and blue-greens, with spots of colour confined to the clothing of the figures.

Topographical detail was suppressed in favour of mood and atmosphere, above all in his ‘souvenirs’, which were based on memories of real landscapes. The popularity of these combined with Corot’s encouragement of younger artists to copy his pictures (which he then signed), either as a learning exercise or for producing works for sale, resulted in numerous forgeries and imitations, as well as difficulties of attribution.

At the Exposition Universelle of 1855 Corot showed six paintings and won a gold medal. His influence on later 19th-century landscape painting, including the Impressionists, was immense, particularly in his portrayal of light on the landscape. For a long time, however, especially among collectors, the popularity of his late work overshadowed appreciation of his early studies.

Related paintings

A Flood
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
probably 1870-5
A Flood
A Wagon in the Plains of Artois
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
1871
A Wagon in the Plains of Artois
Avignon from the West
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
1836
Avignon from the West
Cows in a Marshy Landscape
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
probably 1860-70
Cows in a Marshy Landscape
Dardagny, Morning
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
1853
Dardagny, Morning
Evening on the Lake
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
about 1872
Evening on the Lake
Italian Woman
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
about 1870
Italian Woman
Landscape at Arleux-du-Nord
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
1871-4
Landscape at Arleux-du-Nord
Monsieur Pivot on Horseback
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
about 1853
Monsieur Pivot on Horseback
Peasants under the Trees at Dawn
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
about 1840-5
Peasants under the Trees at Dawn
Sketch of a Woman in Bridal Dress
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
1855-65
Sketch of a Woman in Bridal Dress
Souvenir of Palluel
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
1871
Souvenir of Palluel
Souvenir of a Journey to Coubron
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
1873
Souvenir of a Journey to Coubron
Summer Morning
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
about 1855-60
Summer Morning
The Four Times of Day
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
about 1858
The Four Times of Day
The Four Times of Day: Evening
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
about 1858
The Four Times of Day: Evening
The Four Times of Day: Morning
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
about 1858
The Four Times of Day: Morning
The Four Times of Day: Night
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
about 1858
The Four Times of Day: Night
The Four Times of Day: Noon
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
about 1858
The Four Times of Day: Noon
The Leaning Tree Trunk
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
about 1860-5
The Leaning Tree Trunk
The Marsh at Arleux
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
1871
The Marsh at Arleux
The Oak in the Valley
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
1871
The Oak in the Valley
The Roman Campagna, with the Claudian Aqueduct
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
probably 1826
The Roman Campagna, with the Claudian Aqueduct
The Seine near Rouen
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
probably 1829-33
The Seine near Rouen
The Wagon ('Souvenir of Saintry')
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
1874
The Wagon ('Souvenir of Saintry')
The Wood Gatherer
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
perhaps 1865-70
The Wood Gatherer
Staircase in the Villa of Maecenas, Tivoli
Attributed to Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
about 1826
Staircase in the Villa of Maecenas, Tivoli
A Peasant Woman
Follower of Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
probably after 1860
A Peasant Woman
Seascape with Figures on Cliffs
Follower of Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
probably 1865-75
Seascape with Figures on Cliffs
 
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