The Oak in the Valley
Sold by Corot to the former dancer and actor turned picture dealer Cléophas (Alfred Baron)3 and by Cléophas to his nephew Surville (died 1884)4; with Leo Partridge, Partridge Fine Art, from whom bought by Agnew, December 1944; sold by Agnew to Rudolph Ernst Brandt (died 1961) in December 1944; his niece, Mrs Alice Bleecker, by whom presented to the Gallery in 1981.5
1.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.
2. For Corot in the north of France see D. Horbez, Corot et les peintres de l’école d’Arras, Tournai 2004, particularly pp. 23–4.
3. Alfred Baron adopted the stage name Cléophas in 1857 when he took the role of that name at the Théâtre de la Tour-Maubourg. He was a friend of Daumier, who inscribed his address in one of his account notebooks for 1865–70, ‘M. Cléophas, 3 bis rue de Tivoli’ (J. Cherpin, Daumier et le théâtre, Paris 1953, pp. 48–9). He was particularly admiring of Corot’s work and owned at one time or other at least fourteen of his paintings. In 1873 Corot worked at times in a studio at 19 bis rue Fontaine, put at his disposal by Cléophas. It was here that he painted Pastorale (R2107, Glasgow Art Gallery and Museum, Kelvingrove), acquired by the dealer and exhibited at the Salon of that year. Robaut relates the anecdote: in around 1874 Corot was painting at Ville-d’Avray, a circle of admirers watching him, among them, Cléophas, who had put his blue silk hat on the ground, where it was hit by a falling paint brush loaded with white paint. Corot immediately took it up and turned it into a composition of a tree by water with clouds. E. Moreau-Nélaton in Robaut 1905, I, pp. 305–6.
4. Surville was another former actor who turned to picture dealing. The sale of his estate took place at Petit, 14 February 1884, and included four paintings by Corot. Three were figure paintings. The dimensions of the fourth, Paysage - Etude, are listed as 19 x 22 cm, too small to be those of The Oak in the Valley.
5. The Oak in the Valley was also among the pictures offered to the Gallery in 1962 and was one of the five chosen by the director (Board Meeting, 1 March 1962). At the meeting of 4 October this particular painting had dropped out, and two others were being offered in its place (which were not in the end acquired).