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Camille COROT

Paris, 1796–Ville d’Avray, France, 1875

Corot was born in Paris to a wealthy family of cloth merchants. He followed his father into the family business, but studied painting at a school at night. When his father bought a second home in Ville d’Avray, Corot turned part of it into his studio and painted there while on holiday. At the age of 26, he decided to become a professional painter. He studied landscape painting in the manner of the Academic school, first with Achille Etna Michallon and then with Jean-Victor Bertin, before traveling to Italy, where he spent three years. In the luxuriant light of Italy, he applied himself with a passion. The color sense and mastery of the expression of light he achieved were highly regarded. He later revisited Italy twice. He also traveled widely in France, painting other landscapes as well as those of Ville d’Avray and Fontainebleau. His unwavering focus on natural detail and sharp contrasts between light and shadow had a strong influence on the Impressionists and later generations of artists. In old age he painted landscapes in which realism is combined with lyrical and imaginary feeling. He also produced numerous masterworks of figure painting and portraiture.
Camille COROT Paris, 1796–Ville d’Avray, France, 1875
Camille COROT
Ville d'Avray
1835-40, Oil on canvas

Traditional narrative or historical painting would have a landscape in the background, but not necessarily an actual landscape. From the 1830s, however, the modern landscape painting genre was born as an increasing number of painters observed and painted landscapes out of doors. Camille Corot was one of the new genre’s pioneers. The town of Ville d’Avray, on the outskirts of Paris, was blessed with a wealth of natural beauty, and Corot painted its landscapes, with its forests and lakes, again and again throughout his career. In this example, light filtered through the trees shines on a dimly lit grass-lined path. Behind the young woman standing in the middle of the path, the brightly lit copse of trees and the blue sky build a contrast between light and dark. On the lower left we are given a slight glimpse, between the trees, of the tranquil surface of a lake. The cow, rendered in reddish-brown, pulls the composition together as a whole.
Impressionism and related trends