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Corot. Nature, Emotion, Souvenir at Thyssen Museum
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, L'Odalisque Romaine (Marietta), 1843. Musée du Petit Palais, Paris.

MADRID, SPAIN.- The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum presents Corot. Nature, Emotion, Souvenir, the first monographic exhibition on the artist to be shown in Spain. It focuses on three central ideas reflected in its title: nature, which inspired the artist’s landscapes; the emotions that he was so able to convey in his compositions; and the recollections which these landscapes conjured up for him. The exhibition brings together a comprehensive group of 81 works by one of the most important French painters of the 19th century, whose art transcended its Neo-classical roots and went beyond the Realism and Romanticism of his day to become a true forerunner of Impressionism. After its showing in Madrid, which has benefited from the collaboration of the Consorcio Turístico de Madrid, the exhibition will be seen at the Palazzo dei Diamanti in Ferrara.
Landscapes and Figures

The exhibition aims to offer a complete survey of Corot’s entire artistic career, paying particular attention to the central genre within his oeuvre: that of landscape. These range from the most accurate topographical views to the most luminous and spontaneous compositions on which his success and fame was based. Corot created these works from the starting-point of studies and sketches made from life, which he then re-worked in the studio to produce carefully thought-out compositions. Nonetheless, such works have a natural, spontaneous charm and are painted in a completely individual way with a note of lyricism. These characteristics made them a source of inspiration for later generations of painters focused who on landscape as the principal leitmotiv of their canvases.

Along with landscape, the other key subject in Corot’s oeuvre was the figure or portrait. Here, he experimented with poses and expressions, as well as the colours and textures of the bold and elaborate costumes of his sitters. Corot turned to figure painting in the late 1830s, returning to it with particular energy in the last years of his career. The exhibition has a particularly comprehensive section devoted to this theme.

Imagen: Jean-Baptiste Camille COROT Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza
Souvenir of Italy, 1861 Pº del Prado, 8
Oil on canvas, 61,2 x 89,9 cm. 28014 Madrid
Washington D.C. , The Corcoran Gallery, William A. Clark Collection Tel. 91 420 39 44

Corot. Nature, Emotion, Souvenir also aims to focus the visitor’s attention on one of the most interesting and unique areas of the artist’s output: the so-called souvenirs. These are landscapes with Romantic connotations, painted with a unique and special emphasis on light and luminosity. The forms and elements of the natural world – water, trees, sky – become softened and diffused and are thus vehicles for the emotions that Corot himself experienced in his direct contact with nature.

Among the examples included in the exhibition are a number of the artist’s masterpieces. These include Souvenir of Montfontaine, a key work from the collection of the Musée du Louvre and one of the first landscapes to use this unique approach to light and a chromatic range that would come to be known as Corot’s “silvery mists”.

A thematic survey of the artist’s career

The exhibition has been structured as a complete, thematic survey of Corot’s entire career, covering 50 years of creative activity divided into 8 sections, as follows:

1. The Early Years: The most important piece of advice that Corot received from his first teacher, Michallon, was that of the importance of working outdoors. This practice would become the basis of his theory of landscape. The first section of the exhibition includes four oil studies which reveal Corot’s aesthetic preoccupations at this period and the subject-matter which he selected. One example is Paris, the old Pont Saint-Michel (Musée Départmental de l’Oise, Beauvais. It reveals the artist’s skills at modelling volume through contrasts of light and shade, as well as his preference for clear, light colours and the precise manner with which he composed and structured the pictorial space.

2. Italy: This section is devoted to the views painted during Corot’s trips to Italy. They include panoramic views of the city of Rome and various locations in the Campagna, and reveal the artist’s interest in accurate, topographical representation which resulted in these realist representations. Landscapes of this type constitute an intermediary phase between direct study from life and compositions created in the studio.

3. Regions of France: Corot became familiar with the landscape of the different regions of France due to his extended network of friends and family. The result of his visits is a remarkable testimony to his documentation of the natural world, refined into a unique and personal vision. In addition to his mastery of the brush, the variety of emotions he was able to convey through the subject of landscape is little short of miraculous, ranging from tranquility to a magisterial splendour and including notes of melancholy. In addition, Corot was able to convey in an extremely precise way the different characters of the various regions that he visited, making them instantly recognisable and distinguishable.

4. From historical to lyrical landscape: This section includes a selection of the paintings that Corot exhibited in the official Salons between 1836 and 1864. This aspect of his output has received less attention in the past, perhaps due to the leading role that art history has traditionally granted to Impressionism, which was not involved in the Salon system. Corot, however, took part in the Salons throughout his lengthy career and devoted considerable attention to the genre of historical landscape and its chief purpose, namely the integration of figures into a setting. His compositions are always moving, even melancholy. With their solitary figures, they express the hope that nature can be a healing force in a way not possible with human culture and society.

5. Realism: Corot’s only artistic creed was his faith in nature, which he observed throughout his career in all its different facets. His first studies reveal an unswervingly direct observation. The artist translated the natural world onto canvas through a process of simplification innately based on his outstanding grasp of pictorial construction. This section includes views of cities and interiors in which his intention was to convey the reality before his eyes in a close but free manner, with particularly attention paid to light.

6. Ville d’Avray: The artist’s parents lived here, and for Corot, Ville d’Avray became a vast studio which inspired him to depict the widest variety of landscapes, both with regard to subject-matter and style as well as technique. In Ville d’Avray, Corot was interested in the motif of water, and painted two important series of lakes, as well as the edges of woods and the hills of the area. His desire to capture and convey the emotions that these landscapes aroused in him resulted in paintings that depict the passing moments of the day and the transience of light, for example A Morning in Ville d’Avray (The cow girl), loaned from the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Rouen. In this section we see how Corot moved from a simple, direct evocation of nature to the expression of a unique, interior vision of landscape imbued with emotional and sensory perception.

7. Figures: All of Corot’s portraits (which number no more than 50) were painted to please friends and relations, and he never sold or exhibited any of these works. They are all relatively small in size and are realised with a simplicity and realism determined by the intimacy that existed between the painter and his models. One example is Madame Corot, loaned by the National Gallery of Scotland, wh

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