Jean Baptiste Camille Corot – Insights

Miriam's Pool, watercolour washes, landscape debiriley.com

“Do not be discouraged by the censure that might fall upon one’s works – one must be armoured with a strong conviction which makes one go straight ahead fearing no obstacle, ” Jean Corot counselled would be artists.

Miriam Pool watercolour landscape debiriley.com
Miriam’s Pool watercolour impressionistic landscape debiriley.com

What a fantastic attitude and philosophy!

I’ve long admired and been influenced by Jean Baptiste Camille Corot.   I first saw his actual paintings, in an exhibition at the New South Wales Art Gallery NSWAG in the mid 1990’s.  I was so very impressed by his  magical use of glowing light and those tonal nuances in his paintings.

Jean Baptiste Camille Corot

Jean Baptiste Camille Corot was born July 17, 1796 in Paris, France to a cloth merchant and milliner. A dutiful son, he apprenticed out to a draper as was expected of him.  Finally at age 26 his father relented and permitted Corot to pursue art as his profession. Thank goodness.

Corot  said,   “All I want to do in life, is to paint Landscapes.”     And so he did!  What a magical way with trees and light he had.   Shimmering, dreamy light that flickered and diffused into the atmosphere.  Corot was a  master at creating illusions that seemingly  come to life.

And yet, even loving his landscapes as he did, Corot  painted truly wonderful portraits as well. Including  Woman with a Pearl.   An enticing and lovely portrait with detail and softness in all the right spots. As a general rule I myself prefer landscapes, but Corot’s Woman with a Pearl  is a beauty.

 

Another eye opening statement of his:

“One should embrace the artist’s profession   only after recognising in oneself an intense passion for nature and the disposition to pursue it with  a   perseverance that Nothing can shatter – Thirst for neither approval nor financial profit.”

My word,   I love that statement.

A Softer Approach

In the 1850’s  Corot altered his painting approach somewhat, into a softer and slightly more blurred edged look.  Along with a more limited palette.

Things picked up considerably and his paintings began to sell more frequently.     (I’d like to take note of this little bit of advice myself, actually!)

Corot was a very enthusiastic artist and painted over 3,000 artworks. He experimented with printmaking and photography in the mid 1860’s.  He even began  combining photography and printmaking,  in a technique called,  cliche-verre.

I’ll mention a few of his paintings that I find extra extraordinary:   The Woodcutter, Breakwater in Normandy, Souvenir of Mortefontaine, Canteleu Near Rouen, Wooded Landscape with Figure, The Pond, Un Matin Brumeaux, Woman With A Pearl.  I’m sure you’ll find your own favorites when you have a look through a few of his many paintings.

    

Impressionist Watercolour Landscapes

I have created and shown in this post 3 of my watercolour landscapes using a loose, interpretative and soft approach.

“In Miriam’s Pool,”  (Above  Top Image) I wanted to have the influence of Corot felt, but be all me in colour and medium and techniques used.  I’ve only used 3 colours, applied from top to bottom. Pretty much all at once! saving a sliver of white paper.  Prussian blue, Lunar Black, Quinacridone Sienna.  I did several of these during that particular painting day.  Only 2 were pleasing to me.

 

Dawn's Glow, watercolour landscape debiriley.com
Dawn’s Glow, watercolour impressionist landscape debiriley.com

“In Dawn’s Glow,”  I kept the main focus the morning light that glimmers through the softened foliage.  Using just two colours:  naples yellow Daniel Smith (a standby staple of mine)   and ultramarine violet.

Naples yellow was applied first, letting the paper come to ‘just the magic stage’ of dampness and then applying the ultramarine violet.

Yes,  a tricky one this. Thats why I did about 5.   At least 1 turned out ok.

trees in the light watercolour landscape debiriley.com
Trees in The Light Watercolour landscape debiriley.com

“Trees in The Light,”  my watercolour landscape was a study in restraint.  Using my Rekab #2 watercolour brush and Daniel Smith watercolour paint Zoisite on Arches CP paper; the brush danced and moved, the pigment flowed and did its ‘thing.’

Really all I did… was to then emphasise  in a darker tone the base,  as an ‘anchor.’  As well as to create via skewer ends, the 10 -11  tree sapling trunks that are there.

It was almost as if this one knew what it wanted to be, and I was there to facilitate it happening.   An interesting concept for me!

These 3 impressionist watercolour landscapes shown, are ‘all me,’   yet have a hint of Corot’s influence within them.  I’ll never paint like Corot. Thats ok.    In fact, thats good.  But some day,  I  think I would like to own a Corot!

 

Sources that I’ve referenced for use in this post include:

“Jean Baptiste Camille Corot  The Complete Works”   Nancy Davis,   Publisher Davis Art Center ASIN  B00SVGV7VS

“Impressions of Light: The French Landscape from Corot to Monet”  authors Karen Haas, Sue Welsh Reed, Paul Gauguin  Publishers MFA Publications ISBN-10 0878466460

 

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17 Comments

    1. Thank you so much Mary! Corot is so often overlooked in favour of others like Monet, but I find Corot’s mastery of tonal values sheer delight and really wanted to ‘share’ him 🙂

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  1. These are precious, lovely pieces. And I enjoy reading more about your favourite artist, which augments my own enjoyment of Corot, the artist I always loved for the way he often included a little bright dot of red somewhere in his landscapes.

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    1. Thank you, you’re very kind! And I appreciate your feedback on the posts 🙂 Good observation on the dash of red! cows, hair, cloth or a figure were the usual ‘targets’ for that red. It was a nice subdued harmonious red, not brash! I forgot to mention “The Greek Girl” was another portrait that I quite liked, very sensitive. Thanks again, cheers, Debi

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  2. Hello,Deb! .. I am without a doubt a true novice to art , works and history! And truly past my prime, BUT , i have totally been inspired, soothed and educated into the world of ART by your fantastic tutorial Posts and expressions. I studied MUSIC, which came to be my strength and forte, ( ??) , But dabbled in drawing , and learning about art / artists. “…I just wanted to comment that I am fascinated that I stumbled upon your work and teachingings. Thank you again for giving so much of your time and effort to the pursuit of artistic expression and breathing inspiration ( and Wisdom ) into your posts. Joanne Wighton

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    1. hi Joanne and thank you – for your kind words of encouragement! I think we’re all on the road to discovering more about art, perhaps some got an earlier start is all 🙂 music and art have heaps in common, if you get a chance look at Kandinsky for example. or Miro. Do you watercolour/acrylics? I see magical things on your Pinterest art boards that are awesome! Thank you again Joanne for your feedback. I do appreciate it 🙂 Debi

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