Venice la Piazzetta
Bacchante with a Panther
Tivoli les jardins de la villa d'Este
Bacchante by the sea
1796 - 1875
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (Camille Corot
for short) was born in Paris on July 16,
1796, in a house at 125 Rue du Bac, now demolished.
His family were bourgeois people-his father
was a wigmaker and his mother a milliner-and
unlike the experience of some of his artistic
colleagues, throughout his life he never
felt the want of money, as his parents made
good investments and ran their businesses
well After his parents married, they bought
the millinery shop where his mother had worked
and his father gave up his career as a wigmaker
to run the business side of the shop. The
store was a famous destination for fashionable
Parisians and earned the family an excellent
income. Corot was the second of three children
born to the family, who lived above their
shop during those years.
Corot received a scholarship to study at
the Lycee Pierre Corneille in Rouen, but
left after having scholastic difficulties
and entered a boarding school. He "was
not a brilliant student, and throughout his
entire school career he did not get a single
nomination for a prize, not even for the
drawing classes. Unlike many masters who
demonstrated early talent and inclinations
toward art, before 1815 Corot showed no such
interest. During those years he lived with
the Sennegon family, whose patriarch was
a friend of Corot's father and who spent
much time with young Corot on nature walks.
It was in this region that Corot made his
first paintings after nature. At nineteen,
Corot was a "big child, shy and awkward.
He blushed when spoken to. Before the beautiful
ladies who frequented his mother's salon,
he was embarrassed and fled like a wild thing...
Emotionally, he was an affectionate and well-behaved
son, who adored his mother and trembled when
his father spoke." When Corot's parents
moved into a new residence in 1817, the 21-year-old
Corot moved into the dormer-windowed room
on the third floor, which became his first
studio as well.
With his father's help he apprenticed to
a draper, but he hated commercial life and
despised what he called "business tricks",
yet he faithfully remained in the trade until
he was 26, when his father consented to his
adopting the profession of art. Later Corot
stated, "I told my father that business
and I were simply incompatible, and that
I was getting a divorce. The business experience
proved beneficial, however, by helping him
develop an aesthetic sense through his exposure
to the colors and textures of the fabrics.
Perhaps out of boredom, he turned to oil
painting around 1821 and began immediately
with landscapes. Starting in 1822 after the
death of his sister, Corot began receiving
a yearly allowance of 1500 francs which adequately
financed his new career, studio, materials,
and travel for the rest of his life. He immediately
rented a studio on Voltaire.
During the period when Corot acquired the
means to devote himself to art, landscape
painting was on the upswing and generally
divided into two camps: one?historical landscape
by Neoclassicists in Southern Europe representing
idealized views of real and fancied sites
peopled with ancient, mythological, and biblical
figures; and two?realistic landscape, more
common in Northern Europe, which was largely
faithful to actual topography, architecture,
and flora, and which often showed figures
of peasants. In both approaches, landscape
artists would typically begin with outdoor
sketching and preliminary painting, with
finishing work done indoors. Highly influential
upon French landscape artists in the early
19th century was the work of Englishmen John
Constable who reinforced the trend in favor
of Realism and away from Neoclassicism.
Corot first had lessons with Achille-Etna
Michallon, then became a student of Jean-Victor
Bertin. Both Michallon and Bertin had studied
with landscape painter Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes,
and Corot began to paint landscapes as well.
From 1825 to 1828, Corot lived in Italy and
honed his artistic skills. These influential
years saw him painting the city of Rome and
its countryside, as well as Naples and Ischia.
It was a happy time for Corot, during which
he declared to a friend, "All I really
want to do in life ... is to paint landscapes.
This firm resolve will stop me forming any
serious attachments. That is to say, I shall
not get married."
Realism is recognized as the first modern
movement in art, which rejected traditional
forms of art, literature, and social organization
as outmoded in the wake of the Enlightenment
and the Industrial Revolution. Beginning
in France in the 1840s, Realism revolutionized
painting, expanding conceptions of what constituted
art. Working in a chaotic era marked by revolution
and widespread social change, Realist painters
replaced the idealistic images and literary
conceits of traditional art with real-life
events, giving the margins of society similar
weight to grand history paintings and allegories.
Their choice to bring everyday life into
their canvases was an early manifestation
of the avant-garde desire to merge art and
life, and their rejection of painterly techniques,
like perspective, prefigured the many twentieth-century
definitions and redefinitions of modernism.
Realism is broadly considered the beginning
of modern art. Literally, this is due to
its conviction that everyday life and the
modern world were suitable subjects for art.
Philosophically, Realism embraced the progressive
aims of modernism, seeking new truths through
the reexamination and overturning of traditional
systems of values and beliefs.
Realism concerned itself with how life was
structured socially, economically, politically,
and culturally in the mid-nineteenth century.
This led to unflinching, sometimes "ugly"
portrayals of life's unpleasant moments and
the use of dark, earthy palettes that confronted
high art's ultimate ideals of beauty.
Realism was the first explicitly anti-institutional,
nonconformist art movement. Realist painters
took aim at the social mores and values of
the bourgeoisie and monarchy upon who patronized
the art market. Though they continued submitting
works to the Salons of the official Academy
of Art, they were not above mounting independent
exhibitions to defiantly show their work.
Following the explosion of newspaper printing
and mass media in the wake of the Industrial
Revolution, Realism brought in a new conception
of the artist as self-publicist. Gustave
Courbet, Camille Corot, Édouard Manet, and
others purposefully courted controversy and
used the media to enhance their celebrity
in a manner that continues
IN ARTE EST LIBERTAS