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Courtesy of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art
Santa Barbara Museum of Art
Corot was the most profound, absorbing, and respected landscape painter in France in the generation before Impressionism. He was much beloved by his peers and collectors alike, and remains an important figure whose exploration of the light and poetry of the French and Italian landscape still resonates today.
The Santa Barbara Museum of Art is pleased to present more than a dozen paintings, plus several prints and drawings, representing the first exhibition devoted to the art of Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796-1875) in California, and the first in the United States since the major survey in 1996. Drawing from private and public collections, including the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and SBMA’s own permanent collection, the presentation examines Corot’s development as an artist, from his first views of Rome to his late, delicately-painted landscapes, both real and ideal.
Before developing into the leading painter of the Barbizon school of France in the mid-19th century, Corot originated from a moderately well-off family whose house in Anvers, about 20 miles southwest of Paris, remained his home for his entire career. Apprenticed to a fabric designer, Corot finally gained the courage to become a painter only at the age of 26, as he was shy and socially awkward all his life.
His first experience of Italy, from 1826 to 1828, was a critical moment for him when he captured the strong, warm light and golden ruins with a fresh and vivid directness. Corot's sketches in Italy have been among his most highly prized works for the last century. The exhibition is fortunate to include four Italian sketches as well as two other early sketches.
As he matured, Corot developed a soft, silvery light and touch that cast even his views of real places in the poetic light of memory. Corot stated:
“What there is to see in painting, or rather what I am looking for, is the form, the whole, the value of the tones…That is why for me the color comes after, because I love more than anything else the overall effect, the harmony of the tones, while color gives you a kind of shock that I don’t like.”
These pictures, which married the classical landscape conventions of such earlier French masters as Claude Lorrain to the specifics of northern French light and scenery, were the basis of Corot’s reputation in his own day, and avidly collected by Americans, then and to this day.
Such a strong demand for his work developed that a significant amount of forgeries were produced sixty years after Corot’s death. The famous quip by the Louvre curator René Huyghe is a humorous punctuation, “Corot painted three thousand canvases, ten thousand of which have been sold in America.” The artist’s relatively easy-to-imitate style and lax attitude towards his students to copy his works; touching up and signing student and collector copies; and lending works to professional copiers and rental agencies contributed to the problem.
Despite the flurry of problem pictures that abound, the SBMA exhibition allows the visitor to see Corot at his best by showing only those works that are both unquestionably genuine and of the highest quality.(read less)
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