Prairies au bord de l'eau - Corot, Jean-Baptiste-Camille

Fine Art

Corot, Jean-Baptiste-Camille

One of the leading figures of the nineteenth century Barbizon school, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot was born in 1796 to a bourgeois Parisian family. In order to satisfy his appetite for work with pencil and brush, he enrolled in evening sessions at the private Académie Suisse, where, for a fee, he could draw the posing model.

Corot apprenticed with a draper until the age of 26, a professional experience that he loathed. In 1821, he turned to oil painting, and, with the death of his sister a year later began receiving an annuity, with which he was able to finance his burgeoning art career. He found a studio near his parents’ shop and took instruction from painters Achille-Etna Michallon (1796-1822) and Jean-Victor Bertin (1767-1842). Corot’s studies from 1822-1825 already contain, in their modest directness and lucidity, the essence of his personal style.

After traveling to Italy several times, his works grew larger and more richly nuanced. In Salon exhibits, Corot furthered his efforts to move beyond pure landscape by fueling his work with a narrative content. His yearly submissions to the Salons gradually earned him visibility as a painter of “historical” landscapes. Neoclassicist training and an innate disposition toward Northern realism enabled him to integrate various studies into one well-ordered design, without strain or recourse to formulas.

In the years 1866–1870, he suffered attacks of gout, which forced him to curtail travel and outdoor work. About 1870, he recovered his health and worked with undiminished energy, sustained by a robust constitution. Throughout the Franco-Prussian War and the siege of Paris (1870-1871), he remained at work in his Paris studio. The civil war of the Commune in 1871 drove him to the provincial quiet of Douai. When peace returned, he resumed his migratory life, spending the year of 1872 in constant travel and outdoor painting. In his final years, his early, naturalist tendencies reasserted themselves in subjects taken from reality, which show that he preserved his clarity of vision and noble refinement of color to the end. He died on February 22, 1875 after a brief illness.