Camille Corot Self-Portrait, 1825
A trip to Rome was a natural extension to Camille Corot’s Neoclassical studies under Bertin, so in 1825, his parents agreed to finance his trip with only one stipulation. They ask him to leave behind a portrait of himself for their home which he proudly agreed to do for them. This self-portrait is now exhibited in The Louvre. It serves us well as a measurement of his upwardly evolving painting style through time when compared to the self portrait done later in 1940. You can see the second one a little further on in this biography.
All of Corot’s journeys into Italy were made for the very definitive purpose to study the world before he set out to conquer it. The landscapes from this first Roman trip are still more, or less, in the nature of a reconnaissance as in a splendid topographical study. There is no doubt, that the one most essential skill he developed from his first Roman period was how to create the solid anatomy of the structure.
This would build the strong foundation to support all of his future “impressionist” painted imagery.
For three years, he traveled between Rome and Naples, perfecting his rendering of the subtlest values. He did visit the museums, although he never did set foot into the Sistine Chapel. He preferred the study of the “plein air” and his own visions to that of the great Italian masters. Tone was Corot’s great medium. “What there is to see in painting,” he said once, “or rather, what I look for, is the form, the whole, the equilibrium of tones. Color comes after this with me.” Like Rembrandt, he made color with light and shade.
Lake Piediluco, 1826
Le Mont Soracte, 1826
In 1826-27 the kinship between man and nature was beginning to be realized by Corot in Italy, painting out in the wide open countryside strewn with ancient ruins.
He finished hundreds of drawings and paintings, sending his first Salon entry, The Bridge at Narni, which showcased Corot’s open-air technique. Most importantly, it embodies “the retaining of the first impression view” that was to become the most essential signature of his work. It wasn’t just the Italian light and architecture, however, that Corot painted during his first visit to Rome. He fell in love with the Italian female form, painting the beautiful Roman women, but alas, always returning to his first love of landscapes.
The Bridge at Narni, 1826-1827