French Landscape Painter & Impressionist – Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, one of the most admired French landscape painters and printmakers, was born into an affluent bourgeois family in Rue du Bac, Paris on July 17, 1796. Camille’s father was a wig maker and mother, a milliner. Unlike most artists who show precocious sign of artistry, the follower of the ‘Barbizon School of France,’ Corot realized his true calling only by 1815, when he began drawing classes at Atelier Suisse. After the Corots shifted to a new house in 1817, Jean took a room on the third floor that also later became his first studio. Ever well off, the artist was educated at Rouen and was apprenticed as a draper.

Though, Camille Corot did not like commerce, yet he pursued the trade for six years. Despite the aversion with the line, the painter gathered the aesthetics of the elements (especially colors) of art, during these business years. At twenty-six however, he finally decided to build a career in arts. Achille-Etna Michallon, a landscape painter, under whom Corot sought training for a year (1821-1822), was a great influence on his paintings. Along with the different art forms, Michallon introduced Corot to the concept of ‘French Neo-Classicism.’ After Michallon, Corot joined the tutelage of his teacher, Jean-Victor Bertin.

In 1825, the artist made the first of his many trips to Italy and in a span of three years, accomplished over 200 drawings and 150 paintings. He learnt the elements of ‘Italian Renaissance’ painting, such as volumizing, solidity, light & shadow, thick & thin highlights, and figuration. Two of his paintings here, “Forum (1826)” and “the Bridge of Narni (1827),” are exposited at the Louvre, Paris. Corot’s approach towards landscape painting shuffled between ‘Neoclassical’ and ‘Northern Realism,’ coupled with the technique of ‘Plein-air’ of ‘Impressionism.’ This was followed by touch ups in the studio, for all his works. Corot, was unique not due to his painting technique but because of a thematic rebelliousness that bordered on hearsay. This considering the fact that he was a devout Christian, was in itself a tribute to the artist in him.

By 1827, the artist started featuring regularly at the Salon, beginning with “View at Narni (1827).” With “Agar dans le desert (Hagar in the Wilderness)” in 1835 at the Salon, Corot impressed his critics. “Venise, La Piazetta (1835),” “Macbeth and the Witches (1859),” “Wallace Collection,” “L’Arbre brisé (1865),” “Ville d’Avray (1867),” “Femme Lisant (1869),” “Biblis (1875),” “Souvenir de Mortefontaine (1864)” at Louvre, “Meadow by the Swamp” at the National Museum of Serbia, and “Pastorale – Souvenir d’Italie (1873)” at the Glasgow Art Gallery, are a few of his much celebrated masterpieces. Apart from landscapes, Camille created several competent portraits as well.

By 1865, Corot advanced to a distinct style of painting, characterized by the precision of the sketched structure on a background filled with natural light, highlighting the romantic ambience brought by the soft brushstrokes. Corot received the cross of the Légion d’Honneur by the French government, in 1846. Elected as jury and awarded a second-class gold medal in 1848 at the Salon, the artist was later promoted as an officer of the Salon in 1867. Corot breathed his last on February 22, 1875, and was buried at Père Lachaise. Being a kind hearted and good-natured man, his list of admirers runs long, including the likes of Camille Pissarro, Eugène Boudin, Berthe Morisot, Stanislas Lépine, Antoine Chintreuil, François-Louis Français, Charles Le Roux, and Alexandre DeFaux.

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