Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot: (July 16, 1796 – February 22, 1875) was a French landscape painter and printmaker in etching.
Corot was the leading painter of the Barbizon school of France in the mid-nineteenth century. He 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 "There is only one master here—Corot. We are nothing compared to him, nothing." 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 somewhat arbitrarily divided his work into periods, but the point of division is never certain, 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, and with absolute definition of objects throughout. After his 50th year his methods changed to breadth of tone and an approach to poetic power, and about 20 years later, from about 1865 onwards, his manner of painting became full of mystery and poetry. 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 has seen, along with Hobbema, Claude Lorrain, Turner and Constable.
Corot approached his landscapes more traditionally than is usually believed. By comparing even his late period tree-painting and arrangements to those of Claude Lorrain, such as that which hangs in the Bridgewater gallery, the similarity in methods is seen.
In addition to the landscapes, of which he painted several hundred (so popular was the late style that there exist many forgeries), Corot produced a number of prized figure pictures. While the subjects were sometimes placed in pastoral settings, these were mostly studio pieces, drawn from the live model with both specificity and subtlety. Like his landscapes, they are characterized by a contemplative lyricism. Many of them are fine compositions, and in all cases the colour is remarkable for its strength and purity. Corot also executed many etchings and pencil sketches.
Camille Corot was born in Paris in 1796, in a house on the Quai by the rue du Bac, now demolished. His family were bourgeois people, and unlike the experience of some of his artistic colleagues, throughout his life he never felt the want of money. After an education at Rouen, he apprenticed to a draper, but hated commercial life and despised what he called its "business tricks," yet he faithfully remained in it until he was 26, when his father consented to his adopting the profession of art.
Corot learned little from his masters. He visited Italy on three occasions, and two of his Roman studies hang in the Louvre. A regular contributor to the Salon, in 1846 the French government decorated him with the cross of the Légion d'Honneur, and he was promoted to an officer in 1867. His many friends considered, nevertheless, that he was officially neglected, and in 1874, a short time before his death, they presented him with a gold medal. He died in Paris and was buried at Père Lachaise.
A number of followers called themselves Corot's pupils. The best known are Camille Pissarro, Eugène Boudin, Berthe Morisot, Stanislas Lépine, Antoine Chintreuil, François-Louis Français, Le Roux, and Alexandre DeFaux.
During the last few years of his life he earned large sums with his pictures, which were in great demand. In 1871 he gave £2000 for the poor of Paris, under siege by the Prussians.(see: Franco-Prussian War) During the actual Paris Commune he was at Arras with Alfred Robaut. In 1872 he bought a house in Auvers as a gift for Honoré Daumier, who by then was blind, without resources, and homeless. In 1875 he donated 10.000 francs to the widow of Millet in support of her children. His charity was near proverbial. He also financially supported the keep of a daycenter for children, rue Vandrezanne in Paris.
The works of Corot are housed in museums in France and the Netherlands, Britain and America.