Concert Champetre, 1857-1858
To the Salon of 1857, Camille Corot sent seven pictures, among them five masterpieces. At last, Corot, the sexagenarian, received his long overdue fame. Not only was he finally acclaimed by the art critics, the people of France fell into a love affair with Camille Corot. Among them was Concert Champetre, which was owned by Dupre, and was purchased after his death by the Duc d’Aumale for Chantilly. It was an early picture that he had already exhibited at the Salon in 1844, but pared and refined, it captivated the very same people who had then ignored it. Two other jewels that stole their hearts were the Destruction of Sodom, and the Ronde de Nymphes and a Shepherdess, magnificently rendering the edge of a wood at sunset.
Corot also produced drawings and made etchings. Drawing was an integral part of this artist’s work. He produced nearly one thousand drawings and sketches, giving himself more freedom than what he showcased on canvas. In his early years, Corot used black pencil, red chalk, gouache, and pen and ink, all on various colors of paper. His technique began with precise and ridged botanical drawings produced during his first trip to Italy. This exactness is what would later lead him to become an excellent engraver.
Destruction of Sodom, 1843
In his later years, Corot began to soften his style. He paid ever more attention to the value of shading. His technique was more flexible, resulting with experiments in rendering light both in his paintings and his drawings. In 1853, he began making a series of visits to the English Channel, in which his use of charcoal emerged.
With his friend Constant Dutilleux, a lithographer, Corot began experimenting with a new process called cliché-verre. It was a new technique that combined photography and lithography. Corot produced sixty-six plates, however, he left the printing to others. Inspired by the Roman countryside, Corot’s most notable clichés-verre were The Gardens of Horace, Souvenir of Ostia, and The Banks of the Po River, completed between 1855 and 1858.
Cliche-verre was a new reproductive engraving technique discovered by his friend, Dutilleux, around 1853. This process combined photography and lithography. A plate of glass was first coated with printer’s ink with a lithographic roller, and then sprinkled with talc to quicken the drying time. The artist then drew on it with an engraver’s needle. A piece of sensitive paper was applied to the plate and then exposed to sunlight. This technique, unfortunately, only produced two or three proofs. Corot, always the fastidious craftsman, executed remarkable results. However, they never had the pristine beauty of the etchings and lithographs that he rendered toward the end of his life. There are but a handful of his etchings, but no one surpassed his mastery of this art, as a result of his endless quest for harmonious tonal values.
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