Avignon from the West
A copy of the painting
According to Robaut, Corot lent NG 3237 to his friend and pupil Edouard Brandon, who probably copied it. No such painting was included in the Brandon sales of 19 March 1885 and 13–14 December 1897. A version of NG 3237 was lent by Ernest May’s son, Jacques Ernest May (1885–1970) to the following exhibitions: Corot, Paysages de France et Figures, Galerie Rosenberg, Paris, June-July 1930, no. 8, and Exhibition of French Art, 1200–1900, Royal Academy, London, 1932, no. 306.
In both cases its Robaut number and provenance were confused with that of NG 3237. When it was included in the Galerie Rosenberg exhibition a reproduction was published in L’Amour de l’Art, 1930, p. 331. An examination of the published photograph reveals it to be a copy of NG 3237. It follows NG 3237 closely, apart from a few details, but is much more deliberately and carefully painted, with harsher and more insistent outlines to the architecture. The foliage of tree to the right is carefully painted, unlike that of NG 3237, where it is sketched in with a dry brush. It is possible that it is the copy by Brandon16.
1. Such labels have been found on Corot, Summer Morning (NG 3238); Diaz, Venus and Cupids (NG 3246); attributed to Rousseau, Moonlight with Bathers (NG 3269); Matthijs Maris, Men unloading Carts in Montmartre (NG 2874), and Jacob Maris, The Three Windmills (NG 4399).
2. For a full discussion of materials and technique see article by S. Herring, ‘Six Paintings by Corot in the National Gallery: Methods, Materials and Sources’, National Gallery Technical Bulletin, 30, 2009.
3. This might be the cause of the remark when the painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy: ‘His [Forbes’s] Avignon is a comparatively early Corot, less dexterously and more laboriously touched than most of those in the Grafton Gallery that we mentioned last week.’ See The Athenaeum, 15 February 1896, p. 223.
4. For a description of these changes see F. Leeman and H. Pennock, Museum Mesdag. Catalogue of Paintings and Drawings, Zwolle 1997, p. 138, no. 70.
5. E. Moreau-Nélaton in Robaut 1905, I, p. 78.
6. Villeneuve-lès-Avignon. Vue prise d’Avignon (R330), Villeneuve-lès-Avignon: Vue prise dans le jardin de l’hospice (R331), both Paris, Musée du Louvre, Villeneuve-lès-Avignon (R329), Indianapolis Museum of Art, Villeneuve-lès-Avignon, Fort Saint-André (R333), The Hague, Mesdag Museum, and Études de cypress (R334). See also the following painting by Prosper Marilhat (formerly attributed to Corot), probably painted on the same trip: Villeneuve-lès-Avignon, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Reims.
7. See V. Pomarède, M. Pantazzi and G. Tinterow in Paris/ Ottawa/New York, 1996–7, no. 67.
8. See A. Roquebert, ‘Quelques observations sur la technique de Corot’, in Corot, un artiste et son temps. Actes des colloques organisés au Musée du Louvre par le Service Culturel les 1er et 2 mars 1996 à Paris et par l’Académie de France à Rome, Villa Médicis, le 9 mars 1996 à Rome, Paris and Rome 1998, pp. 73–97 and 84–5 on this, and the authors she quotes.
9. For Forbes see C. Welch, ‘Forbes, James Staats (1823–1904)’, rev. R. Harrington, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford 2004, vol. 20, pp. 291–2. E.G. Halton published a series of articles on Forbes’ collection in The Studio in October 1905. For his importance to the National Gallery see Herring 2001, pp. 77–89.
10. On Lane as a collector, his Gallery of Modern Art, and his bequest to the Gallery see particularly B. Dawson, ed., Hugh Lane: Founder of a Gallery of Modern Art for Ireland, London 2008.
11. ‘En 1873 Corot avait prêté cette étude au peintre Edouard Brandon. Il l’a probablement copiée’. Robaut 1905, II, p. 116, no. 328. Brandon, who studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts from 1849, with François Picot, Antoine Montfort and Corot, is best known for his pictures of Jewish themes.
12. It is stated in the sale catalogue that it had come from a Corot sale, which appears to be incorrect. Ernest May was a Parisian financier who was an important collector of the Impressionists. He regularly bought, sold and exchanged paintings, making it difficult to gauge his collection at any one time. The painting by Degas, Portraits at the Stock Exchange of c. 1878-9 (Paris, Musée d’Orsay), includes in the centre a portrait of May. Information on May from A. Distel, Impressionism: The First Collectors, New York 1989, pp. 223–9.
13. As stated by Bodkin.
14. This and the other two Corots, NG 3238 and NG 3239, were among the original fifteen pictures selected by the National Gallery as being suitable for hanging. Interestingly, the portrait (now thought to be by a follower) was singled out as being of higher quality than the two landscapes by D.S. MacColl, then Keeper of the Wallace Collection, in an undated report on the collection. The landscapes were described as being ‘not so outstanding in merit’. On the other hand, John Singer Sargent, in a further report, described the painting as ‘a charming example of [Corot’s] best period.’ Papers in National Gallery Archive.
15. One of 31 of the 39 Lane paintings included.
16. A reference to the painting appears in Bodkin 1932: ‘an inferior version…which is in the collection of Monsieur Jacques Ernest May, was shown in 1932, in the exhibition of French art at Burlington House.’