View Over the Seine Looking Toward Corot's Parisian Neighborhood
Jean Baptiste Camille Corot was born in Paris on July 16, 1796 into quite a successful middle class family. His mother, whom he always called “La Belle Dame,” was a stylish milliner of Swiss origin who came from a prosperous wine merchant family in Versailles. His father, who oversaw their store’s business finances, came from robust Burgundian stock from which Camille had the good fortune to inherit an exceptionally strong and healthy physique.
His family’s home in Paris was an apartment situated above their business, located on the fashionable corner of Rue du Bac and Quai Voltaire, at the end of the Pont Royal bridge.
Corot could see the Tuileries gardens and The Louvre from the windows of his home. We must presume that growing up in such a beautiful setting, where he lived for more than thirty years, had a substantial influence on Corot’s art.
Camille was enrolled in a small elementary school in the Rue Vaugirard in Paris where he stayed until 1806. At the age of eleven, his parents then sent him to the College de Rouen. A friend of the family, M. Sennegon, living in Rouen, was charged to look after the boy. The Sennegon family loved the out-of-doors, and shared their many nature walks through the woods and across the streams with Camille.
The Merchant's Quay at Rouen 1834
Canteleu Near Rouen, 1855
He spent five years there, relishing the countryside far more than the classroom. There, in Rouen, through the Sennegon family, Corot discovered a pantheistic love of nature that would become the foundation of all his artwork throughout his life.
He completed his formal education at a boarding school in Poissy near Paris at the age of nineteen. Although he finished his classical studies, it became evident that he was neither a brilliant student nor a businessman like his father. In 1815, Corot began a series of apprenticeships with cloth merchants. However he seemed more interested in making sketches and drawings than making cloth deliveries. In 1817, Corot started to spend all of his evenings painting, attending the art school, Académie Suisse in Paris.
In the same year, his father purchased a country home at Ville-d’Avray, ten miles from Paris. Camille instantly became enchanted by the 18th Century home surrounded with picturesque woods and ponds.
His bonding once again with nature only served to reinforce his desire to paint. The country settings at Ville-dAvray would provide Corot with an immense amount of his “en plein air” paintings until the very end, only turning into a studio painter very late in his life due to the constraints of old age. Moreau-Nelaton made a very keen observation when he said, “Providence created Ville-d’Avray for Corot, and Corot for Ville-d’Avray.”
In 1822, when Camille was twenty-six, his father, weary of hearing his son’s complaints about working for the fabric dealers, finally asked him what did he really want to accomplish in a future career. He said firmly, “I want to be a painter.” Due to the untimely death of his younger sister, Victoire-Anne, her family’s allowance could now be made available to finance his lifestyle. This modest funding supported Camille comfortably for the remainder of his life. Later in his career, when he finally began to receive highly paid commissions, he continued to live on this allowance, sharing most of his professional earnings with less fortunate artists and friends.
The Corot Family Home in Ville-d'Avray
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