Sunday, January 13, 2013

Corot, Jean-Baptiste-Camille

oil on canvas
57.8 x 101.6 cm (22 3/4 x 40 in.)
Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., USA

"In my eyes, nobody taught me anything. When one finds oneself alone confronted by nature, one extricates oneself as best one can, and naturally one invents one's own style." (Corot)

Between 1837 and 1865 Corot painted a number of graceful female nudes in dreamlike outdoor settings. This elegant and provocative painting, exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1861, belongs to a rich tradition of classical nudes that reaches back to the Italian renaissance masters Giorgione and Titian. A 19th-century variation on this classical theme, Repose also recalls the exotic Near Eastern odalisques of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Corot’s near contemporary. But in Corot’s painting, the woman is a bacchant, or follower of Bacchus, the Greek god of wine. Bacchants were wood creatures who worshipped nature and often embodied emotions and irrationality. This bacchant rests on a panther’s skin, Bacchus’s attribute, yet the traditional vine wreath in her hair is intertwined with a modern French hair ribbon.

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796 - 1875) ,French landscape painter, was the leading painter of the Barbizon school of France in the mid-nineteenth century. He is a pivotal figure in landscape painting and his vast output simultaneously references the Neo-Classical tradition and anticipates the plein-air innovations of Impressionism. He developed, through painting on the spot, his sensitive treatment of light, form and distance in terms of tonal values rather than by color and drawing. Of him Claude Monet exclaimed "There is only one master here, Corot. We are nothing compared to him, nothing." His contributions to figure painting are hardly less important; Degas preferred his figures to his landscapes, and the classical figures of Picasso pay overt homage to Corot's influence.

His reputation was established by the 1850s, which was also the period when his style became softer and his colors more restricted. In his late studio landscapes, which were often peopled with bathers, bacchae and allegorical figures, he employed a small range of colors, often using soft colored greys and blue-greens, with spots of color confined to the clothing of the figures. His influence on later 19th-century landscape painting, including the Impressionists, was immense, particularly in his portrayal of light on the landscape.
He died in Paris of a stomach disorder and was buried at Pere Lachaise.

"What there is to see in painting, or rather what I am looking for, is the form, the whole, the value of the tones…That is why for me the color comes after, because I love more than anything else the overall effect, the harmony of the tones, while color gives you a kind of shock that I don’t like. Perhaps it is the excess of this principal that makes people say I have leaden tones." In his aversion to shocking color, Corot sharply diverged from the up-and-coming Impressionists, who embraced experimentation with vivid hues.
"Corot is not a simple landscapist, he is a painter, a true painter; he is a rare and exceptional genius." (Delacroix) "Beauty in art is truth bathed in an impression received from nature. I am struck upon seeing a certain place. While I strive for conscientious imitation, I yet never for an instant lose the emotion that has taken hold of me. (Corot) "