Sunday, October 21, 2018

Corot again

Camille Corot (1796-1875), French

Souvenir of a Visit to Coubron, 1873

Excerpts from "Corot" by Elbert Hubbard. Images copyright National Gallery UK ;-)

"The pale silvery tones of Corot, the shadowy boundaries that separate the visible from the invisible ... Before a Corot you would better give way, and let its beauty caress your soul. His colors are thin and very simple—there is no challenge in his work as there is in the work of Turner. Greens and grays predominate, and the plain drab tones are blithe, airy, gracious ..."

"Corot coquettes with color—with pale lilac, silver gray, and diaphanous green. He poetizes everything he touches—quiet ponds, clumps of bushes, white-washed cottages, simple swards, yellow cows, blowsy peasants, woodland openings, stretching meadows and winding streams—they are all full of divine suggestion and joyous expectancy."

"Something is just going to happen—somebody is coming, someone we love—you can almost detect a faint perfume, long remembered, never to be forgotten. A Corot is a tryst with all that you most admire and love best—it speaks of youth, joyous, hopeful, expectant youth."

Closeup on Corot's foliage, how it grays out against the sky - click for high res.

Like Cezanne, he covered his whole canvas as soon as possible and worked on all parts of the painting at once, "improving it very gently until I find that the effect is complete."

If there's any other "secret" to how he worked, it's that he saw and painted primarily in values rather than in colors. "That which I look for while I paint is the form, the harmony, the value of the tones," he wrote. "Color comes afterwards for me because above all I like the harmony in the tones."

By Tones - I take him to mean the infinite gradations of midtone light and shadow.

All of this helps to lend Corot's paintings their marvelous unity of effect - what many have called their "poetry" - the way, wordlessly and all at once, they convey such feeling.

Corot often used cobalt blue in the sky and in the greyish mauve of his middle distancesHis mid-green foregrounds are created from blue and yellow, made up of a transparent yellow (possibly chrome) and a fine blue (possibly Prussian blue) mixture with white, red and black in small amounts.

It’s the admixture of white, red, and blackto his green mixture that creates the subtle, neutralized modulations of tone(value) that make Corot Corot. Between the complementary red and the black, that green is well on its way to a neutral hue, and the white just levels the value as well. 

Creating a similar mauve mixture for the background and taking these as the painting’s predominant limited hues, one is left free to control the painting's overall values, modulating these with just the slightest variations in the various proportions of light and dark paint.


  1. Looking at Corot again with a new light. Thank you!

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