Thursday, April 14, 2011

40 Days of Artists: Corot

Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot began his early training as a landscape painter under a couple of other minor landscape artists Michallon and Bertin.  By 1825, Corot was in Italy, staying mainly in Rome where he began painting en plein aire (in open air) while also painting religious and classical works for exhibition.
A few years later, Corot went back to his native France, but would occasionally return to Rome for a few months at a time.  For everywhere he went, Corot would create small, on-the-spot sketches of the landscapes and the scenery.
By the 1850s, Corot's style had changed a bit from the directness of his observational paintings on the spot.  Many of his landscapes had a certain fuzzy looseness in the brushwork.  Corot was a realist, but many of his landscapes had captured more of an impression of the scenery.  This was particularly evident in the trees and foliage.  The treatment of these landscapes eventually became quite popular, and could be considered as the early beginnings of a new movement of open air landscape painting that emphasized color and light, and emphasized this manner of brushwork that allowed the eye to optically put the painting into focus.  The movement, of course, was French impressionism.
But Corot never went that far to become the first "impressionist" to intentionally make this manner of painting is official style.  Later on in his career, Corot did a few figure studies and portraits that were completely free of this fuzzy approach, but were much more controlled and representative of his realistic style. 
Corot was a diligent and efficient painter up until his death, and created a large number of works throughout his life.  Almost every art museum today all over the world features at least one work by Corot.  There are still several works in the process of attribution, as well as some that have been de-attributed to Corot.  One in particular at the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City is still in the process of re-attribution after discovering the signature of Corot was a forgery.  An incident such as this is certainly not uncommon, as Corot is estimated to have created over 3000 paintings in his lifetime.

Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot
The Woman with the Pearl
oil on canvas
70 x 55 cm.
c. 1869

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