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Artists Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot

French Painter

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot Photo

Born: July 17, 1796 - Paris, France

Died: February 22, 1875 - Paris, France

"I interpret with my art as much as with my eye."

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot Signature

Summary

The hazy landscapes and poetic mythological tableaux of Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot mark an important period of transition in French painting, from the academic Neoclassicism of the early 19th century to the vanguard developments of its later decades, when truth to life, and to emotion, became a more important marker of artistic value than historical or moral significance; and when landscape painting came into its own as the defining genre of the age. Corot was too old to be directly associated with the movements - Realism, Impressionism - which articulated this shift, and was connected with the academic institutions which they spurned. But the lyrical expressiveness of his work, its focus on the natural world, and its movement away from a sharp academic style, made it an important exemplar for the artistic radicals of the late-19th century.

Key Ideas

Although he was an academic painter schooled in Neoclassicism, Corot's landscapes were hailed as having predicted the advances of Impressionism. They became renowned for their soft color-palettes, often rendered with such a low level of tonal contrast that they approached a monochrome effect. The resultant dreamlike quality reflected his desire to stay true to his "first impression" of a landscape, an aim carried much further by Claude Monet and others later in the century.
Corot was also involved in the development of Realism, making periodic trips from the late 1820s onwards to the Fontainebleau Forest, where he met and befriended the Barbizon School of painters. These artists were attempting to divest the French landscape of its historical and mythological baggage, painting only what was there, in a spirit of rapt attentiveness to nature. Following his initial association with the group, Corot began producing increasingly naturalistic landscape paintings, with a strongly emotive draw that predicts many of the subsequent efforts of Millet, Courbet, and others.
Corot was an early advocate of painting en plein air, working with his easel on location in order to capture his first emotional response to a particular scene or setting. This was a technique later made famous by Impressionist painters such as Monet, as well as by Corot's pupils Camille Pissarro and Berthe Morisot, who often paid homage to Corot's techniques as showing them how to capture their own first reactions to a natural setting.
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot Photo

Born into a well-to-do family in Paris, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot was raised in the millinery shop owned and operated by his parents. The business was fashionable and successful, his mother's hat-making earning her a considerable reputation among the Parisian elite, and Corot's childhood was passed in a comfortable and creative setting. However, though he received a classical education at the Collège du Rouen, Corot was a listless student, described by early biographers as shy, awkward, and unimpressive. At his father's insistence, he took up an apprenticeship to a draper - his father's trade - but found it unfulfilling and dull, and duly enrolled in evening drawing classes at the privately run Académie Suisse. Though his parents were reluctant to allow him to pursue a career as a painter, they relented after the death of their younger daughter, even granting him an allowance, so that he could devote himself to his studies with a degree of financial independence.

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