The French landscape and portrait painter Jean Baptiste Camille Corot (1796-1875) is famous for his landscape paintings, and art historians and scholars regard him as a pivotal figure in landscape painting. According to art critics, Jean Baptiste Camille Corot’s paintings simultaneously refer to the Neo-Classical tradition and the en Plein-air technique of Impressionism. Art historians believe this might result from specific Italian influences on his work.
Most French painters of the time visited Italy to learn more about the Renaissance Masters. Corot also visited Italy more than once, and although he didn’t learn much about the Renaissance Masters during his visits, he learned a lot about landscapes and other painting techniques. In this article, we’ll briefly look at Corot’s life and art in general and then discuss his first visit to Italy.
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Who was Jean Baptiste Camille Corot?
Famous Jean Baptiste painter was born in Paris in 1796 to a bourgeois family. His father, a wig maker, and his mother, a milliner, had a successful business, and they invested their income well. Because of the excellent income of his parents, Jean Baptiste never had the financial problems most other artists of his time experienced.
While in high school, he lived with friends of his father and the patriarch of that family frequently took the young Corot on outings in nature. During these walks, his love and affection for nature began, and he started to paint landscapes as a “hobby.”
After school, Camille Corot apprenticed to a draper, staying in the trade until he was 26 years old. Interestingly, art scholars believe that although he didn’t like his work as a draper, his exposure to colours and textiles later attributed to his aesthetic sense as a painter.
In 1822, Corot began receiving a yearly allowance from his family, allowing him to finance his art studies. He was fortunate to have been a student of the landscape painter Achille Etna Michallon between 1821 and 1822. That was when he learned to create landscape sketches and paintings outdoors. After Michallon had died in 1822, Corot became a student of another famous Neoclassical landscape painter, Jean-Victor Bertin.
First Trip to Italy – the Jean Baptiste Artist Story
In the early 1800s, it was the custom for young French painters to go to Italy to study the famous works of the Italian Renaissance Masters and to visit and experience the monuments of Roman antiquity. With his parents’ help, Corot also visited Italy.
His first trip to Italy was in 1825, and later more trips would follow. He stayed in Italy until 1828 before returning home again. He undertook his first journey to Italy with his friend, Johann Karl Baehr, a Latvian painter he had met during lessons at Jean-Victor Bertin’s atelier.
On the first trip to Italy, Jean Baptiste artist and his friend took a route with stops in Switzerland and the Alps. He also stopped in Bologna and Florence. Finally, Corot and Baehr reached Rome in December of that year. They first settled in a building in front of Trinità dei Monti in an immigrant neighborhood.
After a short stay in this building, they rented a room and a workshop on the fifth floor of Palazzo Centini Toni on Via Capo le Case. Their stay in Rome started with heavy rains every day, but Corot used the time to paint ten oil paintings and create two drawings of the rooftops as seen from his window.
The First Trip to Italy – Influence on Jean Baptiste Art
After they had settled in, Corot chose the best-known locations in Rome to visit. He focused on the places immortalized by the Master painter, Nicolas Poussin, whom he greatly respected. He later followed in Poussin’s footsteps with the “legendary landscapes.” Corot stayed with the traditional way of painting landscapes by alternating “en Plein air” on-site painting with studio painting to finalize the work.
During his first visit to Italy, Corot also worked and traveled with several young French painters who were studying in Italy. They painted together and socialized at night in the cafes, discussing each other’s work. But unlike the other students, Corot did not learn much about the Renaissance Masters.
He spent much of his time outside Rome in the Italian countryside. He frequently visited the Farnese Gardens, where he had a splendid view of the ancient Roman ruins. He painted the view at three different times of the day to depict different light effects.
Although he didn’t learn much from the Renaissance Masters during his first visit to Italy, he understood mid-range and panoramic perspectives and the effective placement of structures in a natural setting. He also learned how to place suitable figures in a good landscape painting. During his stay in Italy, he also learned to use natural light and to paint architectural structures and the sky in subtle but dramatic variations.
Corot and Italian Women
Corot also “discovered” Italian women during his visit. He wrote at a stage that Italy had the most beautiful women in the world. He described their eyes, their shoulders, and their hands as spectacular. He said that as a Jean Baptiste painter, he preferred Italian women, but for emotion and passion, he preferred French women.
But although he had a strong attraction to women, he was a painter committed to creating landscapes. But it was also in Italy that Corot began to depict human figures. What he had learned in Italy regarding landscapes and human figures always influenced his later artwork.
Corot created many Paintings and Drawings while in Italy
While on his first trip to Italy from 1825 to 1828, the famous Jean Baptiste painter completed more than 200 drawings and 150 paintings. In the first months of 1827, Corot sent two of the paintings created in Italy to the Salon in Paris.
The works “View of Narni” and the “Roman Countryside.” were well received, and he received relatively good reviews for the “new” Jean Baptiste Camille Corot paintings style.
Before returning home, Corot also journeyed to Naples and visited Capri and Ischia.
Like most young French painters in the early 1800s, Corot also made trips to Italy. Usually, the painters went to Rome to study the works of the Renaissance Masters. Corot, however, spent more time on aspects regarding landscapes and outdoor painting techniques than studying Renaissance paintings. But what he had learned and experienced during his first trip to Italy influenced all his later paintings and attributed to the beauty of Jean Baptiste’s art.
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