Corot is now best known for his sun-bathed views of Italy, his soulful figure-paintings and his later silvery, atmospheric landscapes. His earlier plein air views, especially of Italy, are what are most admired today.
He was born in Paris to prosperous parents whose support enabled him to fulfill the goal of all French landscape painters: the opportunity to study in Italy, particularly in Rome and the Campagna. He made his first trip to Italy in 1825-28. For Corot, as much as for Claude (1600-1682) and Poussin (1594-1665) in the seventeenth century, Rome and its environs provided a fertile ground for artists to recapture the grandeur of the Rome’s past; the area also gave an artist, especially for a landscape painter, the opportunity to take advantage of the clear Roman light, the numerous picturesque settings and to develop his skills in observing and capturing nature. Indeed, for pensionaries at the French Academy in Rome, transferred by Napoleon to the Villa Medici in 1803, plein air sketching in oil was part of the standard artistic curriculum since the late eighteenth century.
Books on Corot
Gary Tinterow et al. Corot, New York, 1996.
Michael Clarke, Corot and the Art of Landscape, London 1991.
Alfred Robaut, L’Œuvre de Corot: catalogue raisonné et illustré, Paris, 1905.