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Corot: The Four Times of Day

Decorative schemes

Corot painted perhaps more decorative schemes than any other landscape painter in the 19th century, all carried out for friends and fellow artists from the 1840s to 1860s. They include a scheme of four panels painted for Léon Fleury in around 1855–65 for his house at Magny-les-Hameaux, Seine-et-Oise: 'Wooded Landscape (Morning), Wooded Landscape (Evening)' (both Vienna, Österreichische Galerie Belvedere), 'The Italian Villa behind Pine Trees' ('La Villa italienne derrière les pins', Kunstmuseum Basel), and 'The Fisherman' (Collection of Frank and Demi Rogozienski).

Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, La Villa italienne derrière les pins, 1855/1865. Kunstmuseum Basel Inv. G 1972.9 © Kunstmuseum Basel, Martin P. Bühler

Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, 'La Villa italienne derrière les pins', 1855–65.
Kunstmuseum Basel Inv. G 1972.9 © Kunstmuseum Basel, Martin P. Bühler

As with 'The Four Times of Day', these tall panels feature small figures set in landscapes framed by graceful trees. The composition of 'Italian Villa behind Pine Trees' is particularly close to that of 'Night': a tall group of trees balanced on the left with one single trunk frames the scene, two figures with a characteristic touch of red wend their way along the path, and in the right background an Italianate villa is glimpsed on the hillside. The villa, as in the village in 'Night', is based on memories of villages from Corot's three trips to Italy.

Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, The Fisherman, c.1855-1865. Frank and Demi Rogozienski Collection.Photo © courtesy the owner

Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, 'The Fisherman', c.1855–65. Frank and Demi Rogozienski Collection. Photo © courtesy the owner

The panels feature the same bravura brushwork as in 'The Four Times of Day'. In the foregrounds, the thin underpainting is visible, the figures are also painted thinly, and there is scratching out in the water of 'The Fisherman'. While a distinct progression from morning to night is not so marked in the Fleury panels, a concern with the differing light effects of different times of the day is evident. In 'The Fisherman' the bright blue sky and even light is perhaps that of midday, while in 'Italian Villa behind Pine Trees' the sky deepens to a dark blue.