|Recollection of Mortefontaine by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot,
landscape oil painting, 1864.
One of my great heroes in art is Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796-1875), the world-famous French artist who is still considered one of the best landscape artists of all time. His poetic paintings stop me in my tracks and soothe my soul every time I come across one in a book or museum.
Corot is often associated with the Barbizon School, but like many of the great artists in history, he was really his own man, carving out his own personal niche in the world of landscape painting. His looser late work from the 1850s through the 1870s, which is the culmination of his life's pure dedication to art, is neither as idealized nor as gritty as many of the other artists of his day, and is actually a precursor of the Impressionists who rose to fame just after him. Like his colleagues, he created his finished works in the studio, but he painted many preparatory sketches outdoors on location.
Perhaps the word that is most often used to describe Corot's landscapes is "poetic," which is a quality I strive for in my own work. So I've spent a lot of time analyzing how he achieved this expressive quality that invites viewers in and encourages tranquility.
|Landscape by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot,
landscape oil painting, 1875.
|Thatched Cottage in Normandy by Jean-Baptiste-
Camille Corot, landscape oil painting, c. 1872.
First and foremost, I think Corot's work is poetic because it is often quiet in color. He did not use a lot of bright hues, and in fact, he included browns, blacks, and other neutrals on his palette. Sometimes criticized for his subdued color, Corot answered that his goal was to create a cohesive work of tonal harmony by composing his works based on values, as opposed to color. His free, gentle, never overworked brushwork and soft edges also contribute to the misty, atmospheric effects in his landscape art.
|Pool in the Woods by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot,
landscape oil painting, 1865-1870.
Yet, as soft and ethereal as his paintings appear, Corot's work is never dull. And I think that comes from his use of silvery colors, often in the form of sparkling highlights, that cascade over his paintings. These flecks of light bring movement and vitality to his paintings.
So what do you think of Corot's work? What techniques–his or some of your own–do you use to create poetry, mood, or atmosphere in your paintings? I'd love to hear your thoughts.