Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot

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Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, ca. 1850

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (16 July 179622 February 1875) was a French landscape and portrait painter as well as a printmaker in etching and famous art teacher in Paris. Corot was a leading figure in 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

Quotes of Camille Corot[edit]

'Woman with a pearl, ca. 1869

1820 - 1850[edit]

  • I have learned from experience that it is useful to begin by drawing one’s picture clearly on a virgin canvas, first having noted the desired effect on a white or gray paper, and then to do the picture section by section, as immediately finished as one can, so that when it has all been covered there is very little to retouch. I have noticed that whatever is finished at one sitting is fresher, better drawn, and profits more from many lucky accidents, while when one retouches this initial harmonious glow is lost. I think that this method is particularly good for foliage, which needs a good deal of freedom.
    • In his 'Notebooks', ca. 1828, as quoted in Artists on Art – from the 14th – 20th centuries, ed. by Robert Goldwater and Marco Treves; Pantheon Books, 1972, London, pp. 239 – 240
  • The first two things to study are form and values. For me, these are the bases of what is serious art. Color and finish put charm into one’s work.. ..it seems to me very important to begin by an indication of the darkest values (assuming that the canvas is white), and to continue in order to the lightest value. From the darkest to the lightest I would establish twenty shades.. ..Never lose sight of that first impression by which you were moved. Begin by determining your composition. Then the values – the relation of the forms to the values. These are the basis. Then the color, and finally the finish.
    • In his 'Notebooks', ca. 1828, as quoted in Artists on Art – from the 14th – 20th centuries, ed. by Robert Goldwater and Marco Treves; Pantheon Books, 1972, London, p. 240
  • I am staying on in Geneva, this charming city. With each step I discover delightful motives. How pleasant it is to work here. And the light is just the way I like it, full of delicate nuances.
    • In a letter to his friend, the painter Paul Tavernier, Geneva, July 1842; ; as quoted in 'Corot', Gary Tinterow, Michael Pantazzi, Vincent Pomarède - Galeries nationales du Grand Palais (France), National Gallery of Canada, Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.), 1996, p. 136
  • My spirits.. ..now lean towards sadness and melancholy. I too am beginning to feel my age. Then, as one moves on in life sorrows multiply, and necessarily it is harder to keep cheerful.. ..[I experienced] violent disappointments, that I might even call grief.
    • In a letter to Jean-Gabriel Scheffer, 27 Dec. 1845; as quoted in Corot, Gary Tinterow, Michael Pantazzi, Vincent Pomarède - Galeries nationales du Grand Palais (France), National Gallery of Canada, Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.), 1996, p. 142
    • this is one of the very few negative expressions by Corot; he is then 49.

1850s[edit]

  • I am never in a hurry to reach details. First and above all I am interested in the large masses and the general character of a picture; when these are well established, then I try for subtleties of form and color. I rework the painting constantly and freely, and without any systematic method.
    • In his 'Notebooks', ca. 1850, as quoted in Artists on Art – from the 14th – 20th centuries, ed. by Robert Goldwater and Marco Treves; Pantheon Books, 1972, London, pp. 240-241
  • Be guided by feeling alone. We are only simple mortals, subject to error; so listen to the advice of others, but follow only what you understand and can unite in your own feeling.
    • In his 'Notebooks', ca. 1856, as quoted in Artists on Art – from the 14th – 20th centuries, ed. by Robert Goldwater and Marco Treves; Pantheon Books, 1972, London, p. 241
  • Beauty in art is truth bathed in an impression received from nature. I am struck upon seeing a certain place. While I strive for a conscientious imitation, I yet never for an instant lose the emotion that has taken hold of me. Reality is one part of art; feeling completes it.. ..Before any site and any object, abandon yourself to your first impression. If you have really been touched, you will convey to others the sincerity of your emotion.
    • In his 'Notebooks', ca. 1856, as quoted in Artists on Art – from the 14th – 20th centuries, ed. by Robert Goldwater and Marco Treves; Pantheon Books, 1972, London, p. 241
  • You know, a landscape painter's day is delightful. You get up early, at three o'clock in the morning, before sunrise; you go and sit under a tree; you watch and wait. At first there is nothing much to be seen. Nature looks like a whitish canvas with a few broad outlines faintly sketched in; all is misty, everything quivers in the cool dawn breeze. The sky lights up. The sun has not yet burst through the gauze veil that hides the meadow, the little valley, the hill on the horizon.. ..Ah, a first ray of sunshine!
    • Quote of Corot's description of the beginning of a day in Switzerland, Château de Gruyères, 1857, as quoted in Letters of the great artists – from Blake to Pollock, Richard Friedenthal, Thames and Hudson, London, 1963
Camille Corot, painting in open air, January 1871
'View on Ville-d'Avray', 1873
  • The whole landscape lies behind the transparent gauze of the fog that now rises, drawn upwards by the sun, and as it rises, reveals the silver-spangled river, the fields, the cottages, the further scene. At last one can discern all that one could only guess at before.. ..The sun is up! There is a peasant at the end of the field, with his wagon drawn by a yoke of oxen.. .. Everything is bursting into life, sparkling in the full light – light, which as yet is still soft and golden. The background, simple in line and harmonious in colour, melts into the infinite expanse of sky, through the bluish, misty atmosphere. The flowers raise their heads the birds flutter hither and thither.. ..The little rounded willows on the bank of the stream look like birds spreading their tails. It’s adorable! And one paints! And paints!
    • Corot's description of a morning in Switzerland, Château de Gruyères, 1857, as quoted in Letters of the great artists – from Blake to Pollock, Richard Friedenthal, Thames and Hudson, London, 1963

1860s[edit]

  • I thank heaven that I was born in the same century as this remarkable artist [= Daubigny ].
    • a remark c. 1865; as quoted in Corot, Gary Tinterow, Michael Pantazzi, Vincent Pomarède - Galeries nationales du Grand Palais (France), National Gallery of Canada, Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.), 1996, p. 272 – quote 65
  • He [ Delacroix ] is an eagle, I am only a lark.
    • Corot; as quoted in Corot, Gary Tinterow, Michael Pantazzi, Vincent Pomarède - Galeries nationales du Grand Palais (France), National Gallery of Canada, Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.), 1996, p. 272 – quote 65
  • It is this book ['The Imitation of Christ'] that has helped me lead my life which such serenity and has always left me with a contended heart. I has taught me that men should not puff themselves up with pride, whether they are emperors, adding this or that province tot heir empires, or painters who gain a reputation.
    • recorded by Madame Aviat; as quoted in Corot, Gary Tinterow, Michael Pantazzi, Vincent Pomarède - Galeries nationales du Grand Palais (France), National Gallery of Canada, Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.), 1996, p. 272-73 – quote 69
  • You can see the pains I take to hide the attachment [of the muscles] at the clavicles and sternum, to soften the modeling of the ribs where it seems that the breasts just begin to swell; I try to go about it entirely differently from the usual way, which is above all to show what one knows. As this is not an anatomy lesson, I must bind together as seen in nature everything covering the armatures that make up and support the body, in order to put down only what I experience faced with these tissues of flesh that let one sens the blood beneath, while they reflect the light of the sky. In a word, I must bring to the painting of that breast the same artlessness I would employ in painting a bottle of milk.
    • Corot explains the making of this painting to his biographer Alfred Robaut, c. 1869; as quoted in Corot, Gary Tinterow, Michael Pantazzi, Vincent Pomarède - Galeries nationales du Grand Palais (France), National Gallery of Canada, Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.), 1996, p. 277
    • about his painting 'Landscape with Figures', also called 'La Toilette', Corot painted in 1859

1870s[edit]

  • I spent the winter [1859-1860 when he was painting 'Orfée et Euridice'] in the Elysian fields, where I was very happy; you must admit that if painting is a folly, it’s a sweet folly that men should not only forgive but seek out.
    • told to Dumensnil in 1875; as quoted in Corot, Gary Tinterow, Michael Pantazzi, Vincent Pomarède - Galeries nationales du Grand Palais (France), National Gallery of Canada, Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.), 1996, p. 290 – note 18
  • If my time has come I shall have nothing to complain of. For fifty-tree years I have been painting; so I have been able to devote myself entirely to what I loved best in the world. I had never suffered poverty; I had good parents and excellent friends; I can only thank God.
    • Quote from a letter to Corot's friend M. Francais in 1875, the year of his death

Quotes about Camille Corot - chronologically[edit]

  • At the head of the modern landscape school stands M. Corot.. ..Clearly this artist has a sincere love for nature and knows how to study nature with as much intelligence as love. The qualities that shine forth in him are so emphatic – because they are rooted in his soul and his nature – that the influence of Mr. Corot can now be detected in almost all the paintings of the young landscape painters.
    • C. Baudelaire, in 'The Salon of 1845'[1]; taken from Selected writings on Art and Artists, transl. P. E. Charvet – Cambridge University Press, Archive, 1981, p. 45
    • Corot was a well-known art-teacher in Paris and had many pupils
  • ...he [= Corot] knows how to be a colorist with a tone-range of little variety – and that he always achieves harmony even when using fairly crude and bright tones. His composition is always perfect. Thus in his 'Homère et les Bergers' no detail is unnecessary, nothing could be cut out; not even the two little figures walking away along the path...
    • C. Baudelaire, in 'The Salon of 1845'[2]; taken from Selected writings on Art and Artists, transl. P. E. Charvet – Cambridge University Press, Archive, 1981, p. 46
  • One has to see a painter in his own place to get an idea of his worth. I went back there [to Corot’s studio, after the official exhibition] and I appreciate in a new light the paintings that I had seen in the Museum and that had struck me as middling.. ..He told me to go a bit ahead of myself, abandoning myself to whatever might come; this is how he works most of the time.. ..Corot delves deeply into a subject; ideas come to him and he adds while working; it’s the right approach.
    • Eugène Delacroix: Entry for 14 March, 1847 in his Journal; as quoted in Selected writings on Art and Artists, transl. P. E. Charvet – Cambridge University Press, Archive, 1981, p. 150, note 44
    • This visit of Delacroix was the beginning of a long and important friendship
  • [at Charles Daubigny's place where] ..animated conversations on the direct study of nature or the comparative merits of Haarlem paint driers and thick oil paints were often interrupted bu bursts of merriment greeting a witticism of one of the guests, who included non other than Corot, Daumier, Geoffroy-Dechaume, etc....
    • Felix Braquemond, remembering Paris evenings around 1854; as quoted in Corot, Gary Tinterow, Michael Pantazzi, Vincent Pomarède - Galeries nationales du Grand Palais (France), National Gallery of Canada, Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.), 1996, p. 150 – note 43
  • My travelling companion [= Corot] has just abandoned me. He's a perfect Father Joy, this Father Corot. He is altogether a wonderful man, who mixes jokes in with his very good advice
    • Charles Daubigny, in his letter of 1852; as quoted in Corot, Gary Tinterow, Michael Pantazzi, Vincent Pomarède - Galeries nationales du Grand Palais (France), National Gallery of Canada, Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.), 1996, p.271 – note 62
    • Corot's relationship with Daubigny was by far his most important friendship with another artist, during the 1860-70's
  • Don't you think your Corot is a little short on temperament? I'm painting a portrait of Vallabreque; the highlight on the nose is pure vermilion.
  • It is only in ceasing to be entirely true that the artist will cease rendering the precise effect that has struck him, and this is what happens to Corot all those times when, too eager to idealize, he gets lost in forms and colors that have no equivalent in nature.
    • Theodore Duret, c. 1861 ; as quoted in Corot, Gary Tinterow, Michael Pantazzi, Vincent Pomarède - Galeries nationales du Grand Palais (France), National Gallery of Canada, Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.), 1996, p. 278 note
  • He [Corot] was always surrounded by a crowd of fools and I didn't want to get caught up in it. I admired him from a distance.
    • Quote of Renoir c. 1865, in: Renoir – his life and work, Francois Fosca, Book Club Associates / Thames and Hudson Ltd, London 1975, p. 12
  • My dear Theo.. ..Yesterday I saw the Corot exhibition. It included a painting of the 'Mount of Olives'; I'm glad he painted that. On the right, a group of olive trees, dark against the darkening blue sky; in the background hills covered with shrubs and a couple of tall trees, above them the evening star. There are 3 Corot's at the Salon [in Paris], very beautiful, the most beautiful one, painted shortly before his death, 'Women cutting wood', will probably appear as a woodcut in 'L'Illustration or Le Monde Illustré'.
  • What I like so much about Corot is that he can say everything with a bit of tree; and it was Corot himself that I found in the museum of Naples [in 1882] – in the simplicity of the work of Pompeii and the Egyptians. These priestesses in their silver-grey tunics are just like Corot's nymphs.
    • Renoir's quote in a letter to Durand-Ruel (1882), as quoted in Renoir – his life and work, Francois Fosca, Book Club Associates / Thames and Hudson Ltd, London 1975, p. 164
  • He was a good kind man, mr. Daubigny. And mr. Corot too; he [= Corot] used to put on his blouse, light his pipe, and sit down to paint in the middle of the road like any workman. He had a merry word for all who passed and was a rare good fellow. Those were the times when Les Valléés [Auvers] were full of life.
    • Ferdinand Gulpin, the old gardener of Daubigny in Auvers-sur-Oise, interviewed c. 1892 by Robert J. Wichenden, quoted in the article 'Charles-francois Daubigny' in 'The Century Illustrated Montly Magazine', Vol. XLIV, July 1892, p. 333
  • The light! [in the paintings of Délacroix ].. ..There is more warm light in this interior [probably: 'Woman of Algiers'] of his than in all of Corot's landscapes..
    • Paul Cezanne's quote in: 'What he told me – II. The Louvre', in Joachim Gasquet’s Cézanne, - a Memoir with Conversations, (1897 - 1906); Thames and Hudson, London 1991, p. 196
  • Whatever is in common is true; but likeness is false. Trouillebert's work bears a likeness to that of Corot, but they have nothing in common.
    • p. 96 - quote of Georges Braque from 'Cahiers d'Art', No. 10, 1935, ed. Christian Zervos
    • Braque admired Corot and frequently used Corot's young country-ladies as his models, for instance in his painting 'Souvenirs de Corot', which Braque painted in 1922/23

External links[edit]

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