Saturday Art: Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot

(Pictures courtesy of jean louis mazieres at

(Picture courtesy of Cliff at

A precursor of the impressionists, Corot painted with care and planning yet gave an impression of dreaminess that has led him to be associated with the movement itself.   He was prolific and dedicated, but the academicians of his time were cool to him and his art only appreciated fully by his fellow painters.

While recognition and acceptance by the establishment came slowly, by 1845 Baudelaire led a charge pronouncing Corot the leader in the “modern school of landscape painting”. While some critics found Corot’s colors “pale” and his work having “naive awkwardness”, Baudelaire astutely responded, “M. Corot is more a harmonist than a colorist, and his compositions, which are always entirely free of pedantry, are seductive just because of their simplicity of color.”[32] In 1846, the French government decorated him with the cross of the Légion d’honneurand in 1848 he was awarded a second-class medal at the Salon, but he received little state patronage as a result.[33] His only commissioned work was a religious painting for a baptismal chapel painted in 1847, in the manner of the Renaissance masters.[34] Though the establishment kept holding back, other painters acknowledged Corot’s growing stature. In 1847, Delacroix noted in his journal, “Corot is a true artist. One has to see a painter in his own place to get an idea of his worth…Corot delves deeply into a subject: ideas come to him and he adds while working; it’s the right approach.”[35]


Corot is a pivotal figure in landscape painting. His work simultaneously references the Neo-Classical tradition and anticipates the plein-air innovations of Impressionism. Of him Claude Monet exclaimed in 1897, “There is only one master here—Corot. We are nothing compared to him, nothing.”[48] His contributions to figure painting are hardly less important; Degas preferred his figures to his landscapes, and the classical figures of Picasso pay overt homage to Corot’s influence.

Historians have divided his work into periods, but the points of division are often vague, as he often completed a picture years after he began it. In his early period, he painted traditionally and “tight”—with minute exactness, clear outlines, thin brush work, and with absolute definition of objects throughout, with a monochromatic underpainting or ébauche.[49] After he reached his 50th year, his methods changed to focus on breadth of tone and an approach to poetic power conveyed with thicker application of paint; and about 20 years later, from about 1865 onwards, his manner of painting became more lyrical, affected with a more impressionistic touch. In part, this evolution in expression can be seen as marking the transition from the plein-air paintings of his youth, shot through with warm natural light, to the studio-created landscapes of his late maturity, enveloped in uniform tones of silver. In his final 10 years he became the “Père (Father) Corot” of Parisian artistic circles, where he was regarded with personal affection, and acknowledged as one of the five or six greatest landscape painters the world had seen, along with Hobbema, Claude Lorrain, Turner and Constable. In his long and productive life, he painted over 3,000 paintings.[50]

Though often credited as a precursor of Impressionist practice, Corot approached his landscapes more traditionally than is usually believed. Compared to the Impressionists who came later, Corot’s palette is restrained, dominated with browns and blacks (“forbidden colors” among the Impressionists) along with dark and silvery green. Though appearing at times to be rapid and spontaneous, usually his strokes were controlled and careful, and his compositions well-thought out and generally rendered as simply and concisely as possible, heightening the poetic effect of the imagery. As he stated, “I noticed that everything that was done correctly on the first attempt was more true, and the forms more beautiful.”[51]

Corot’s approach to his subjects was similarly traditional. Although he was a major proponent of plein-air studies, he was essentially a studio painter and few of his finished landscapes were completed before the motif. For most of his life, Corot would spend his summers travelling and collecting studies and sketches, and his winters finishing more polished, market-ready works.[52

The fame he knew was tenuous, but Corot was part and parcel of his artistic community, respected and revered, and he returned that regard.

(Picture courtesy of thomas Hawk at

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Ruth Calvo

Ruth Calvo

I've blogged at The Seminal for about two years, was at cabdrollery for around three. I live in N.TX., worked for Sen.Yarborough of TX after graduation from Wellesley, went on to receive award in playwriting, served on MD Arts Council after award, then managed a few campaigns in MD and served as assistant to a member of the MD House for several years, have worked in legal offices and written for magazines, now am retired but addicted to politics, and join gladly in promoting liberals and liberal policies.


  1. Ruth
    June 6, 2015 at 7:00 am

    good morning, pups, hoping you will have a lovely June morning. In reading some of the info about Corot, a mention was made of how as a landscape painter, he fretted through the winter because he couldn’t be out experiencing what he needed to be in, so he could paint it as he saw and felt it. Got that, how good to be able to be out again.

  2. Beverly Lawson
    June 6, 2015 at 7:51 am

    Good Morning All, This is work day for me….in the final stretch….quoting “another” pup, corrupting kids minds……had this gig for about 14 years…and yes, I feel older;)

  3. Ruth
    June 6, 2015 at 7:53 am

    hello, guess you’ll be moving soon, hope it’s not too awful. As you know, I did this and am very glad. Now having produce from the NW PA garden, lovely.

  4. joel
    June 6, 2015 at 8:46 am

    Morning Ruth, pups, thanks for the pretty pictures.

    Don’t recall when, probably early in my school years, I noticed that among the many odd characteristics of the grown-ups was their obsession with ratings….everyone and everything needed to be given a place in some hierarchy or another. Greatest, next to greatest, not so great, average, below average poor, awful etc., so naturally, we kids joined in the fray.
    Music, sports, film, literature, art, art especially. Everyone is involved,especially the media, they couldn’t have headlines without it.

    So someday maybe I will encounter an interesting essay on the fine arts without having to sort through all the gibberish placing the artist in the hierarchy. The art itself appears to be secondary to the who’s who.

    Sometimes I wonder if I am naturally this onery or its the coffee.

  5. Ruth
    June 6, 2015 at 9:02 am

    Actually, about artwork more than any sort of sport, I find folks have their preferences and often differ from the ‘Salon’ ratings. Corot was never much appreciated by the critics, it was the artists around him that elevated him in their circle, and stood up for him to the commentators of the time.

  6. joel
    June 6, 2015 at 9:28 am

    Indeed, the critics personify the rating game while the artists produce the art.

  7. June 6, 2015 at 9:47 am

    Hmm, I fret during the summer because the light is harsh, many times polluted, the days long, and little in the way of drama.

    Probably the most interesting assignment i have had in my work was this photo, shot on Christmas eve, for Boeing.!/portfolio/C0000llrNgXTzzc8/G0000G5Yk3cCtY0I/I0000b0egcj3ibtc

  8. Canyon2
    June 6, 2015 at 10:05 am

    Good morning everyone.
    Thank you for the post Ruth and once again you gave us an interesting topic.
    I love landscape artwork

  9. Alice X
    June 6, 2015 at 10:12 am

    Amazing, thank you. I was always inspired by the view from my apartment in Santiago Chile. Every morning there was Aconcagua, along with the rest of the range. Though much higher, none stood out quite the way Mt Hood does.

  10. June 6, 2015 at 10:23 am

    It’s actually a montage, because even as the ephemeris and moon info indicated that the moon would rise near Mt Hood,it actually rose well to the left of the mountain. I had been shooting a series of images before the time moonrise arrived, because the sun was leaving the mountain as the moon rises. So, I waited until the moon was sufficiently above the horizon, shot that, then made the rise happen in the darkroom.

    It was a commercial assignment. I had to deliver.

    Around 1980 or so.

  11. Elliott
    June 6, 2015 at 10:24 am

    Yes, thank you Ruth for the introduction to Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot. I especially like the portrait of Agostina.

  12. bluesman therapy challenged
    June 6, 2015 at 1:17 pm

    Ruth from spuds’ place, picking strawberries, and having to eat all the ones that aren’t just perfect, testing!
    thanks for your visit, and am so garden besotted, am just useless today, a perfect June day. Picked fresh spinach too, mmmmmmmmm

  13. dubinsky
    June 6, 2015 at 4:07 pm

    fabulous composition