Jean Baptiste Camille Corot was born in Paris in 1796. His father was a draper and his mother a fashion designer. Raised in prosperous surroundings, he developed a predilection for classical literature and an inclination towards art. For the sake of his parents, Corot went into an apprenticeship as a merchant but mostly demonstrated his incompetence there. After he failed in becoming a merchant, his parents finally allowed him to become a painter. At the age of twenty-six he finally was able take lessons from a painter who was more or less his age, Achille-Etna Michallon. After Michallon’s death in 1822, Corot continued his studies under Jean-Victor Bertin, who tried to lead him towards classicism.
However, Corot was more likely to be found painting in the forest of Fontainbleau, the countryside of Normandy or at Ville-d’Avray, where his parents owned a property. In 1825 he started the obligatory voyage to Italy. However, he was not so much interested in the cultural heritage that Rome had to offer. From 1826 onwards he started to work almost every day in the Farnese Gardens, painting the Roman ruins. Searching the environs of Rome for motifs, he painted his landscapes with as much light and atmosphere as possible. Returning to Paris in 1828 he continued sketching “en plein air”. To attract attention, he composed large-scale landscapes, using studies from Italy and Fontainbleau.
In 1834 he travelled to Northern Italy, Florence and Venice. On his third and final voyage to Italy in 1843 he travelled directly to Rome and took excursions to Tivoli, Genzano and Lake Nemi.
Following his mother’s death Corot’s way of painting developed into a particular style. He divided his work into three main categories: landscape studies from nature, historical compositions for the Salon, and landscapes composed for sale. For exhibitions Corot preferred literary or religious motifs.
In order to finance his life, he produced what was mostly expected of him: enchanted landscapes, deriving from the impressions of sites he had visited in Italy and France. There was a high demand among collectors for these subjects, which led Corot to concentrate them.
When Napoleon III purchased Souvenir de Marcousis (1853, Musèe d’Orsay, Paris) for his personal collection, Corot became an established painter. Between 1850 and 1860 he focused more on painting figure studies.
Due to an illness from 1866 to 1870 he had to work mostly in his studio where he painted women in Italian costumes and landscapes from memory. Corot’s landscape painting is what his reputation rested on. While he was painting in the woods of Fontainbleau with painters that he had befriended from the school of Barbizon, the genre of the “paysage intimiste” was inverted. The composition of his paintings is clear and simple. His early Italian landscapes mark the first high point of his work. They are characterised by the harmonious accord of timeless beauty and sensual elegance.
We are grateful to Mr. Martin Dieterle and Claire Lebeau for confirming the attribution. The painting will be included in the sixième supplément of the “L’oeuvre de Corot” by Alfred Robaut.