French artist Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot was an influential 19th-century landscape painter. He once stated, “I have only one goal in life, which I desire to pursue with constancy: that is to paint landscapes.” His fascination and determination to capture nature on canvas carved the way for future Impressionist landscape painters such as Claude Monet and Berthe Morisot.
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot was born in Paris on July 16, 1796. His parents ran a successful fashion shop on Rue du Bac. After much persuasion, his father finally allowed him to attend classes at the atelier Suisse in Rouen even though he thought that a career in painting was worthless. He soon changed his mind when his son began to produce incredible works of art, and in order to show his support, he ordered that a studio be constructed in their country home in Versailles. By twenty-six, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot had the financial means to pursue his dream.
An avid traveler, Corot spent much of his new found freedom trekking though France and along the Channel coast painting outdoors as much as the light would allow. He traveled to Rome in 1825 and during his three year stay there, produced such works as ‘Vue Prise à Narni’ and ‘Campagne de Rome’. While in Italy, he did several small landscape studies using simple forms. These paintings were portrayed with crisp, pure light, a unique style that began to influence many younger painters of that time.
Upon Corot’s return to France, he continued to paint landscapes. In 1846, his stay in the forest of Fontainebleau inspired numerous woodland scenes including the popular ‘Un Site de Fontainebleau’. In the 1850s, his paintings took on a new look which was a move forward into the future. Silvery, feathery landscapes seemed to excite the public and fostered new attention to naturalism.
In his thirties, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot won his first medal at the Salon in Paris where he would be elected years later to serve as a member of the Salon jury. He continued to exhibit his works there on a regular basis, until the mid seventies. An exhibition of six paintings at the Exposition Universelle in 1855 won him another medal at the Salon. Of all the recognition he ever received as an artist, there was no honor greater than the gold medal he received in the name of the French artists, presented to him in 1874 by his peers for a lifetime of landscape painting.
Two years before his death, Corot exhibited ‘Pastorale’ and ‘Passeur’, which were considered at the time his best works, and which showed a complete expression of his genre of talent.
On February 22, 1875, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot died in Ville-d'Array, at the age of 79. Some of the last works he exhibited were ‘Souvenir du Lac Nemi’ and ‘Danse Antique’. His desire to preserve his impression of nature on canvas will always be appreciated by artists and art lovers alike.