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The Four Times of Day: Morning
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
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This is the first in a series of four panels illustrating the different times of day that Corot painted for his friend, fellow artist Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps. Two tall trees with full foliage on the left of the panel are offset by two smaller trees on the right. Corot’s use of trees on either side of the picture to create a vista framing the view beyond is a compositional device used by classical landscape painters, such as Claude.

Starting from a thin and sketchily applied brown underpaint, Corot built up the composition with thicker, more opaque paint, but much of the picture remains an almost monochrome brownish-green. The most intense colour is the band of cadmium yellow-orange on the horizon, which indicates the imminent emergence of the sun as dawn breaks. Corot shows that as the light increases so colour intensifies, and this idea unfolds further across the next two panels. The bonnet introduces a red highlight that recurs across the series.

Key facts
Artist Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
Artist dates 1796 - 1875
Full title The Four Times of Day: Morning
Group The Four Times of Day
Date made about 1858
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 142.2 x 72.3 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Bought with the assistance of the Art Fund (with a contribution from The Wolfson Foundation), 2014
Inventory number NG6651
Location in Gallery Room 45
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The Four Times of Day

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Corot painted these four wooden panels – Morning, Noon, Evening and Night – for his friend and fellow artist, Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps. The panels were to decorate the studio in the house Decamps had recently bought at Fontainebleau, a town southeast of Paris. Other artists, including Bonvin and Philippe Rousseau, were asked to produce paintings for the dining room.The Fontainebleau forest was a popular location for artists in the mid-nineteenth century, especially the area in and around the neighbouring village of Barbizon.

As with many of Corot’s paintings, this group combines aspects of the classical tradition of idealised landscape, as represented by the seventeenth-century French artist Claude, with the practice of sketching in oils outdoors. The series was completed in just one week, and the freshness of Corot’s brushwork particularly impressed Decamps. Corot’s technique was also admired by Impressionist painters such as Monet, who painted series showing different times of the day.

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