Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot ( 1796 – 1875) was a French artist who was a pivotal figure in landscape painting. He was revered in the later part of his life for his poetic landscapes in which nymphs dance in the forest but he was also influential to the development to Impressionism. Corot made many oil sketches from nature, his rendering of outdoor light inspired Monet, Degas and Renoir to work directly from nature. I find this interesting because he inspired a rational representation of nature while in his mature work he spiritualized the landscape. Corot was so admired for his mythical paintings, the artist Joseph Nichols Hippolyte Aussandon painted a nymph weeping as a memorial to him.
Corot’s The Bridge at Narni is a good example of his early work which he painted directly from nature. In a sense, his painting is a recording of the ‘facts’ of the effects of light. H.R. Rookmaaker recognized “The study of landscape was parallel to the observations of science. I say the study of landscape, as there is a marked change here from the seventeenth-century type of landscape as created by Jan van Goyen or by his contemporary Claude Lorrain. Constable was the first to make scientific studies in painting clouds, and many of his landscapes picture actual places”. For example, Claude Monet did a series of paintings of hay stacks, he was interested in the effect of light at different times of the day. Many traditional artists considered the efforts of Impressionists to be absurd because traditional did more than record the effects of light in an aesthetic from, it expressed human truth.
Morning: Dance of the Nymphs marks the turning point in development of Corot’s style. It was the first of his atmospheric landscapes which brought Corot fame. His work appealed to an inner need for peace as well as a longing for a better world, his enchanted landscapes can be seen as a counter to the one-sided rationalism of modernism. The figure holding up a cup to the far left of the painting is apparently Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and passion.
So much was lost when artists turned away from myth. This painting shows Orpheus leading Eurydice from the underworld. Orpheus was a legendary poet who had such skill with his lyre he was able to charm all of nature, trees and rocks as well as beasts. He was married to the wood nymph Eurydice, after she died from a snake bite he descended into Hades by the power of his music.