This view is one of a number painted by Corot during his stay in north-east France in the spring and summer of 1871. In May he stayed with his friend and fellow artist Alfred Robaut at Douai. Robaut later wrote that this work, painted in just a few hours, was a copy after one of his own sketches, faithful in all respects apart from the house at the right, which was added by Corot.
The village of Palluel lies directly south of Arleux-du-Nord in the valley of the Sensée river, which may be the expanse of water visible in the background. In the foreground a man sits in a flat-bottomed boat or punt, which is piled high with what are probably reeds. It is a marshy, watery landscape, where land and water have the same muted silvery tonality. The whole is very thinly painted, with the weave of the canvas visible throughout.
Corot left Paris in April 1871 to escape the Commune, a revolutionary government which had taken power in March following France’s defeat in the Franco-Prussian war. In May he stayed with his friend and fellow artist Alfred Robaut at Douai. Robaut spent a number of years compiling a catalogue of Corot’s work, which was published in 1905. In the entry for this painting he noted that Corot had copied one of his own studies: ‘This painting was executed by Corot in a few hours during his stay in Douai, after a study by M. Alfred Robaut. He copied it faithfully in almost all its parts, confining himself to adding the small house which emerges from the trees on the right.’
The area where Corot worked that spring and summer is particularly noted for the marshes lying along the Scarpe and Sensée rivers, which can also be seen in Corot’s The Marsh at Arleux. The village of Palluel lies directly south of Arleux-du-Nord in the valley of the Sensée. The expanse of water in the background of this view may be the river itself. The inlet in the foreground would be one of the many which run along its course. At the right is the steep roof of the house that Corot added to his copy from Robaut, next to which stands a derelict building, with the beams of the roof visible. In the foreground a man sits in a flat-bottomed boat or punt, which is piled high with what are probably reeds. It is a marshy, watery landscape, where land and water have the same muted silvery tonality. The whole is very thinly painted, with the weave of the canvas visible throughout. As was his usual practice, Corot painted the sky at a late stage, bringing it round the roof of the house, where it overlaps the chimney.
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