Thursday, 23 April 2015

“Artists who inspire" Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, in Italy

Photographic portrait of Corot painting. 

Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot (1796-1875) was a French painter best known for his landscapes and portraits.  He made several trips to Italy, including Florence, for inspiration.  He is credited with launching “the modern school of landscape painting,” namely painting outdoors from nature – plein air.

Neoclassical painting by Corot

Corot’s early training was steeped in the neoclassical approach typified by idealized views of real and imaged landscapes with ancient or mythological settings.  Famous French Neoclassicists included Claude Lorrain and Nicolas Poussin whose major aim was the representation of ideal beauty in nature.  This genre of art contrasted with realism, which was more devoted to representing actual topography, architecture, flora and peasants.  The works of Englishmen John Constable and J.M.W. Turner are highly influential examples of realism.  

Throughout his life Corot embraced both, but increasingly favored painting from nature.

Corot’s first trip to Italy, 1825-1828, was spent primarily around Rome and the surrounding countryside.  Painting at different times of the day, Corot gained and understanding of the challenges of mid-range and panoramic perspective and placing man-made structures in a natural setting. He was concerned with giving landscape elements volume and solidity through his understanding of form and the effects of light.

Bridge at Narni

During his first trip, Corot produced over 150 paintings and 200 sketches.  Among these, the Bridge at Narni, both a realist sketch and a larger studio piece which converted the theme to the neoclassical style.  

For the next six years Corot concentrated on producing large studio pieces for the competition in the Paris Salon but mostly received cool reception for his neoclassical approach.

Corot later returned to Italy in 1834 and painted in places such as Florence, Volterra, Venice, Pisa and Genoa.  During this time he collected enough material for the rest of his career He would continue to travel throughout his life, visiting Avignon and the south of France as well as Switzerland and other European locations.
View from the Boboli gardens
The same view today, from the Boboli Gardens

For much of Corot’s early career, both the establishment and the public rejected his neoclassical works, but slowly recognition came for his plein air sketches and paintings.  
Ultimately, in the later half of his life, Corot received great recognition from both artists and the public for his work in realism.  With recognition came the success and finances to generously fund the needs of other aspiring artists and charities. 

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