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French Landscape Painter: Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot

Many art lovers are not so well informed about Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot’s works. But this French portrait painter and printmaker is recognized as a pivotal figure in landscape painting.


To a great extent, his life and works are the bridge between the Neoclassical tradition of landscape painting and the Plein-air technique of Impressionism. He was born in 1796, died in Paris in 1875, and created many masterpieces during his lifetime.


In this article, we’ll briefly look at his very interesting and, in the end, successful life and career, and also list a few of his works. We hope this article will entice you to learn more about Jean-Baptiste, the artist.


Early Life

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot’s (Camille Corot for short) parents were bourgeois people. His father, a wig maker, and his mother, a milliner, ran their business successfully and invested well. His parents’ millinery shop was a famous destination for fashionable Parisians.


And because of the good income they earned from their business, Jean-Baptiste never felt the lack of money. Corot received a scholarship from the Lycée Pierre-Corneille in Rouen but left because of scholastic difficulties and entered a boarding school. He wasn’t considered a brilliant student, and during his school days, he was never nominated for a prize – not even for his drawings.


As a child, Corot did not show particular interest in art. But during his school years, he lived with friends of his father, the Sennegon family. The Sennegon patriarch frequently took young Corot on nature walks. It was here, where the walks had taken place, and his love for nature had begun, where the first Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot paintings would later be created.


Jean-Baptiste the Artist’s Story – the Beginning and First Training

Famous Jean Baptiste painter apprenticed to a draper, and although he despised commercial life, he stayed in the trade until he was 26. Art scholars believe that although he didn’t like his work as a draper, his exposure to colors and textiles helped to develop his aesthetic sense.


In 1822, Corot began to receive a yearly allowance of 1,500 francs from his family, which enabled him to finance his art studies and career. Between 1821 and 1822, he was a student of a landscape painter, Achille Etna Michallon.


The lessons included the creation of landscape sketches and paintings outdoors. After Michallon’s unexpected death in 1822, Corot became a student of one of the best-known Neoclassic landscape painters in France, Jean-Victor Bertin.

A Girl Reading – Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot


Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot’s later Life – Bird’s Eye View

Before we look at Jean-Baptiste, the painter, and the Jean-Baptiste art in more detail, let’s briefly look at his life story. Corot followed the pattern of most French painters in going to Italy to study the masters of the Italian Renaissance. However, before he left for Italy for the first time, he painted his first self-portrait and presented it to his parents.


He was in Italy from 1825 to 1828 and completed more than 200 drawings and 150 paintings. During the six years following his first Italian visit and his second, Corot focused on large landscapes to present at the Salon. He also travelled throughout France, concentrating on rustic landscapes. Corot also created some portraits of friends and relatives, and he started to receive commissions.


Interestingly, while the art establishment didn’t accept Corot’s work well, other painters acknowledged his growing stature. However, Corot’s public treatment improved after the Revolution of 1848, when he was admitted as a member of the Salon jury. In 1867 he became an officer of the Salon.


Corot remained close to his family until his parents died. In 1874, his many friends believed that he was officially neglected, and shortly before his death, they presented him with a gold medal.


Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot’s Painting Style

When Corot became the Jean-Baptiste artist who would become famous later, landscape painting was on the upswing in Europe. There were two schools of landscape artists. The one school represented the historical landscape painting style by Neoclassicists in Southern Europe. They idealised views of real and fancied sites and populated the scenes with ancient, mythological, and biblical figures.


The other school represented the depiction of the realistic landscape, often also showing figures of peasants. In both schools, the landscape artists typically began with outdoor sketching and preliminary painting and then finished the artwork indoors. Jean-Baptiste, the painter, did not limit his training to only one of the schools. He learned from both and almost always tried to apply both traditions in his work, and sometimes even combined the two traditions in the same painting.


Some art scholars believe that concerning his landscapes, the beauty of Jean-Baptiste’s art is that he approached landscape painting in a more traditional sense than is usually believed. Compared with later Impressionists, Corot’s palette was restrained and dominated by the “forbidden” colors – browns and blacks. However, his compositions were also always well-thought-out.


Apart from his landscapes, Corot produced several prized figure pictures. Although the subjects were often placed in pastoral settings, they were mostly studio pieces drawn from live models. But let’s now list three of his famous works to entice you to “discover” more paintings of famous Jean Baptiste painter.

Chartres Cathedral, 1830 – Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot


“River Landscape,” “Hagar in the Wilderness,” and “A Girl Reading”


  • “River Landscape” is an example of Corot’s unique and impressive style and his classic subjects, namely the woods, rivers, bushes, and sky of the rural region around Paris. The landscape was painted on a rectangle-shaped canvas. The water and sky are intensely bright, while the land, rocks, and vegetation are dark. This creates a strong contrast.


  • “Hagar in the Wilderness” is another of Corot’s oil on canvas paintings. It depicts the biblical figure Hagar as she wanders through the wilderness of Beersheba with her child Ishmael. The figures are dying of thirst in the desert until saved by an angel. In 1835, he created a sensation at the Salon with this painting.


  • “A Girl Reading” is a portrait painting painted in the late 1840s. Although Jean-Baptiste, the artist, was mainly known for his beautiful landscapes, he was also an accomplished portrait painter. This “reading theme” is a theme found in many of his portraits.



Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot was a great painter specialising in landscapes and creating stunning portraits. Although his works were not always in the beginning well-received by the art establishment, other painters of that time recognized his talent and understood his style and techniques.

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