The impressionist style developed as a method to render more accurately the appearance of the natural world, and was principally a technique for landscape painting. Corot, whose career began in the late 1820s when the academic tradition of landscape painting was being revived, was one of the most prolific and influential exponents of the genre. Forest of Fontainebleau, painted for and exhibited at the Salon of 1834, is a historic landscape, the hybrid category devised to elevate the status of landscape painting by combining with it the subjects of history painting. Although Corot's principal subject here was landscape, contemporaries readily identified the reclining woman in the foreground as Mary Magdalene. Her unbound hair and peasant costume, the deer in the background, and her solitude in the wilderness are traditional attributes of the saint.
In accord with academic training, Forest of Fontainebleau was created in the studio on the basis of sketches and studies that had been painted outdoors. The artist's humble attitude toward nature, unostentatious compositions, responsive paint handling, and conscientious clarity and freshness of vision distinguish his work from the formulaic landscapes of academic contemporaries. Corot declined to participate in the first impressionist exhibition, but his pervasive influence was manifest in works by pupils and followers including Pissarro, Morisot, Renoir, Monet, and Sisley.
lower left: COROT
Marks and Labels
Louis-Alfred Binant [1823-1904], Paris, by 1855; (his sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 20 April 1904, no. 18); purchased by (Bernheim-Jeune, Paris). Léon Orosdi, Paris, sometime after 1913. (Galerie André Weil, Paris); (Etienne Bignou, Paris); sold 25 June 1934 to Chester Dale [1883-1962], New York; bequest 1963 to NGA.
- Salon of 1834, Paris, no. 371, as Une fôret
- Exposition de l'oeuvre de Corot, Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1875, no. 138, as Jeune femme lisant pres d'un cours d'eau entouré de rochers
- Exposition des deux tableaux importants par Corot et Gustave Courbet, M.A. Binant, Paris, 1876, no. 1, repro.
- Exposition centennale de l'art français, Exposition universelle, Paris, 1889, no. 173
- Exposition de centenaire de Corot, Palais Galliéra, Paris, 1895, no. 18
- Grafton Galleries, London, 1908
- Le Musée de Bâle, Basel, 1913, no. 60
- Französische Kunst des XIX. u. XIX. Jahrhunderts, Kunsthaus, Zurich, 1917, possibly no. 58
- French Romanticism, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1979, unnumbered checklist.
- In the Forest of Fontainebleau: Painters and Photographers from Corot to Monet, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 2008, no. 30, repro. (shown only in Washington).
- From Impressionism to Modernism: The Chester Dale Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, January 2010-January 2012, unnumbered catalogue, repro.
- Daliphard, E. "Exposition des oeuvres de Corot." L'Art 2 (1875): 158.
- Baschet, L. L'Art français. Paris, 1890: repro. opp. 98.
- Robaut, Alfred, and Etienne Moreau-Nélaton. L'Oeuvre de Corot. Catalogue raisonné et illustré. 5 vols. Paris, 1905: 1:56, 64; 2:90, no. 255, repro; 4:167.
- Meynel, E. Corot and His Friends. London, 1908: 58.
- Bouyer, Raymond. "Corot, peintre de figures." Revue de l'art ancien et moderne 26 (1909): 26, 295.
- Lafargue, M. Corot. New York, 1926: 47.
- Meier-Graefe, Julius. Corot. Berlin, 1930: 44-45.
- Catalogue of French Paintings from the Chester Dale Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1941: 1-2, pl. II.
- French Paintings from the Chester Dale Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 21, repro.
- French Paintings from the Chester Dale Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1944: 21, repro.
- Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds., Great Paintings from the National Gallery of Art. New York, 1952: 150, color repro.
- Engel de Janosi, Carlette. "The Forest of Fontainebleau in Painting and Writing." Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 11 (1953): 391-394, 396, repro.
- French Paintings from the Chester Dale Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1953: 28, repro.
- Baud-Bovy, Daniel. Corot. Geneva, 1957: 200.
- Novotny, Fritz. Painting and Sculpture in Europe, 1780-1880. Baltimore, 1960: 106.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 323, repro.
- Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Paintings & Sculpture of the French School in the Chester Dale Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 36, repro.
- Roberts, Keith. Corot. London, 1965: 42, color pl. 13.
- Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 31.
- European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 23, repro.
- Giampaolo Gandolfo et al. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Great Museums of the World. New York, 1968: 77, color repro. (Italian ed., Milan, 1968: 77, color repro.).
- Hours, Madeleine. Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot. New York, 1972: 23, fig. 16.
- Chu, Petra Ten Doesschate. French Realism and the Dutch Masters: The Influence of Dutch Seventeenth-Century Paintings on the Development of French Painting between 1830 and 1870. Utrecht, 1974: 21-23.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 78, repro.
- Toussaint, Helene. Hommage à Corot. Exh. cat. Orangerie des Tuileries, Paris, 1975: 38-39, 181.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1975: 436, no. 628, color repro.
- Phaiden Encyclopedia of Art and Artists. New York, 1978: 137.
- Hours, Madeleine. Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot. New York, 1984: 21, fig. 16.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 432, no. 616, color repro.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 97, repro.
- Wissman, Fronia. Corot's Salon Paintings: Sources from French Classicism to Contemporary Theater Design. Ph.D. diss., 1989: 27-33.
- Clarke, Michael. Corot and the Art of Landscape. London, 1991: 49, 51, repro.
- National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 182, repro.
- Gale, Iain. Corot. London, 1994: 58, repro. 59.
- Pantazzi, Michael, Vincent Pomarède, and Gary Tinterow. Corot, 1796-1975. Exh. cat. Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. New York, 1996: 27, n. 116; 88, n. 2; 111,n.7.
- Eitner, Lorenz. French Paintings of the Nineteenth Century, Part I: Before Impressionism. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 2000: 29-36, color repro.
- Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 356, no. 289, color repro.
- Corot Souvenirs et variations. Exh. cat., The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo; Kobe City Museum. Tokyo, 2008: 256.