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Corot, Jean Baptiste Camille

landscape painter salon

COROT, JEAN BAPTISTE CAMILLE (1796-1875), French landscape painter, was born at Paris in July 1796. He received an ordinary school education at Rouen, and was then apprenticed to a Faris draper. From childhood it was evident that he was a born artist ; but prudential motives induced his father sternly to repress the strivings and utterances of his genius. He continued therefore to drudge at the draper's counter till his twenty-sixth year. He then finally escaped from the grip of trade, and his genius had its own way in the world. He entered the atelier of Michallon ; and on the death of his master the same year (1822) he passed to that of Victor Bertin. But he did not get on happily with, or learn much from either of these teachers. At length he made his escape from the town and the school with their oppressive conventionalities, and took refuge with nature in the fields of Italy. Here he studied, dreamed, and painted for several years. In 1827 he began to exhibit at the Salon, his first works being Vue prise a Narni and La Campagne de Rome. The public passed them by without much notice, but artists saw in them decisive proof that a new poet-painter was among them. From this time he worked on vigorously for nearly fifty years, seldom failing to make his appearance at the Salon. Public recognition and "golden joys" were very slow to come; nor was it till he was nearly seventy that he became a wealthy man. He had obtained a medal of the second class in 1833, and medals of the first class in 1848 and 1855. He received the cross of the Legion of Honour in 1846, and was promoted officer in 1867. Corot was one of the most original of painters. He was almost exclusively a landscape painter ; for although in a very few cases his pictures bear historical titles, landscape is even in these the predominant element. And with him it was always the poetry of landscape, never the topography. He stood in nature's presence, reverent, loving, enthusiastic, watching for the most delicate effects and changes of light, especially at early dawn and at dewy eve and in still moonlight, on cloud and sky, on tree and stream, - seeing thus what but few eyes do see, and ever striving to reproduce in his works his own impression of magical dreamy beauty. His work, like those of Millet, are mostly touched with sadness ; but while Millet is stern and almost savage, Corot is always tender and delicate. In his chosen field he stands almost alone and unrivalled. Among his works are - Vue d'Italio (1831) ; Souvenir des environs de Florence (1839) ; La Douse des Nymphes ; Soleil couchant dans le Tyrol (1850) ; Effet de Matin ; Dante et Virgile ; Macbeth ; Agar an Desert ; Saleil levant; Souvenir d'Italie ; Le Repos ; La Solitude (1866) ; Un Matin Ville d'Avray (186S) ; Una Douse Antique ; and Le Bacheron. The two last mentioned were exhibited, after his death, at the Salon of 1875. In the social circle Corot was one of the frankest and most genial of men. His favourite relaxation after a long day's work was the theatre, where to the last he is said to have followed the performance with the fresh delight of a child. Naturally of a generous disposition, he gave away with a large hand the wealth which flowed in on him in his later years; and many a touching tale is told of distress relieved and sad hearts comforted by his ministrations. The affectionate regard generally felt towards him is shown in the designation " le Pere Corot" by which he was commonly known. In 1871 he lost a beloved sister ; and after this sharp blow he never recovered his former gaiety of heart. One of his last acts was the gift of a pension to the widow of his brother artist Millet, who had died not long before. In December 1874 a gold medal designed for the occasion was presented to him by many French artists in token of honour and esteem. Corot died at Paris, after a long period of failing health, February 22, 1875.

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