The Impressionists were indebted to a longer tradition of sketching and painting outdoors. ‘Corot to Monet’ charted the development of open-air landscape painting up to the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874.
Drawing on the National Gallery’s rich collection of 19th-century French landscapes, the exhibition featured all the major artists of this genre.
‘Corot to Monet’ opened with scenes by Jean-Bapiste-Camille Corot, Simon Denis and Pierre Henri Valenciennes. They were among artists who gathered in Rome in the 18th and 19th centuries, setting out to paint picturesque locations in the Campagna outside the city.
A major part of the exhibition focussed on the work of the Barbizon School. ‘Corot to Monet’ demonstrated how painters such as Théodore Rousseau, Jean François Millet and Narcisse-Virgilio Diaz de la Peña captured their native scenery to great effect.
The exhibition traced the tangible influence these works had on the Impressionists as they began exploring new techniques. Monet’s ‘The Beach at Trouville’ and other early works were displayed alongside the beach scenes of Eugène Boudin and late works by Corot.
Detail from Richard Parkes Bonnington, 'La Ferte', about 1825. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of Inheritance Tax and allocated to the National Gallery pending a decision on permanent allocation, 2007.