Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (artist)|
French, 1796 - 1875
Forest of Fontainebleau, 1834
oil on canvas
overall: 175.6 x 242.6 cm (69 1/8 x 95 1/2 in.) framed: 196.9 x 262.9 cm (77 1/2 x 103 1/2 in.)
Chester Dale Collection
Object 3 of 7
At first there seems to be something a bit incongruous here. The forest is rough, almost wild, but a young woman lies on the ground to read. Her blouse falls perilously low, but her book has the look of a biblical text. Viewers who saw this at the Salon in 1834, however, would have quickly recognized the woman as Mary Magdalene from her book, the deer, and especially her long tresses. Corot apparently added the figure as an afterthought -- she is painted over bits of foliage and water -- probably to elevate his landscape in the hierarchy of the Salon. By introducing a narrative element, and a religious one at that, his subject would be accorded greater prestige and justify the large size of his canvas.
Today, Corot is most appreciated for very different kinds of landscape: for plein air sketches, never destined to be exhibited themselves but painted outdoors in preparation for studio pictures, and for lyrical views of the countryside he called souvenirs. The soft, silvery souvenirs recapture a poetic response to nature. Their fresh touch and light atmosphere are informed by outdoor studies and combined with a strong sense of form retained from classical French landscapes of the seventeenth century. Corot's work was an important influence on younger impressionist painters.
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