Corot’s recollections of his early trips to Italy remained with him throughout his career. Specific locations and scenes from memory, and the many plein air sketches that he produced in situ, provided sources and inspiration as he embarked on his major Salon landscape paintings of the early 1840s. Campagne Italienne dates from this period and is an example of this type of “souvenir” or a work inspired from memory and not a specific site. It compares stylistically to the painting Corot exhibited at the Salon in 1840, variously titled Paysage, Soleil Couchant, or Le Petit Berger, and considered one of his most remarkable personal successes. As Charles Blanc commented in his review of the 1840 Salon:
“No painter has ever understood the idyll like him [Corot]… There is a mysterious refinement in his tepid nature, where reality and ideal come together.”
Charles Blanc, ‘’Salon de 1840,’’ Revue du progrès politique, social et littéraire, 1840, p. 358
Corot envisioned Campagne Italienne as an intimate corner of nature introduced by a pastoral group in the foreground guarding a herd of sheep in the distance. Corot’s distinctive style is already visible in this painting, with the dramatic play of light and shade modeling both the people and the animals, as well as the use of red for one of the figures’ caps to add volume and contrast to the prevailing green of the landscape. Its format, atmospheric effects and vertical lines created by the trees to convey rhythm, perspective and a sense of depth reveal the strong influence of Claude Lorrain on Corot’s works from this period.
We would like to thank Martin Dieterle and Claire Lebeau for kindly confirming the authenticity of this painting.
Signature: Signed COROT (lower left)
Alfred Robaut, L’Œuvre de Corot, Catalogue raisonné et illustré, Paris, vol.2, p. 222, no. 628 (illustrated)
Madame Madeleine Lemaire, Paris (by 1875)
Private collection, Paris, 1939 (thence by decent to the present owner)
About Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
Known for bridging the Neoclassic tradition of allegory set in nature with Realism and plein air practice, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot embarked on his artistic career by studying landscape painting. Although he initially struggled to gain acceptance in the establishment, Corot flourished as a landscapist, benefiting from multiple trips around Europe, especially Italy. His early oil sketches, painted outdoors and characterized by their bright colors, fluid brushstrokes, and prioritization of the expression of mood and atmosphere over topographical details, greatly influenced the Impressionists. In addition to poetic landscapes he painted portraits, and, seeking greater recognition at the Paris Salon, biblical and mythological scenes, which were considered the highest form of painting. Despite only moderate success in the Salon, his body of work earned accolades from the influential poet and critic Charles Baudelaire and fellow artists such as Eugène Delacroix.
French, 1796-1875, Paris, France, based in Paris, France