“To live without noise is a consolation for living without glory.”
“I prefer to proclaim with Pissarro that the art of painting resides, for the one who knows how to look, in a corner of a table, in an apple. To paint an apple, what could be easier! And still to make of this simple notion something which will rise to beauty, it will be necessary that painting be there in its entirety solid, supple, rich in substance, suggestive almost, of luxury, of grandeur to reveal the presence of man: an atmosphere of thoughts around itself.”
“‘Next to an unknown place a known,’ Corot said to me.
Degas has been quoted as saying, “Corot is the best of all of us.” Monet as well, saying “There is only one master here–Corot. Compared to him, the rest of us are nothing absolutely nothing.” For any painter with eyes, these assertions aren’t debatable. Pissarro, who put Cézanne on the track and who Cézanne cited as his mentor was mentored himself by Corot. It’s hardly ever mentioned that I’m aware of, but the Impressionist painters hardly sprang from the head of Zeus. They derived directly from the Barbizon painters, and particularly the master of that school, Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot. Corot’s work embodies a form of transcendent perception of nature that is virtually unique.
Confronted with a room of landscape paintings in any museum in the world that you’re entering for the first time, the work of Corot will immediately announce itself if you’re familiar with Corot’s light, the light of his spirit. The wonder of Corot is that everything he achieved is in a voice barely above a whisper. Yet his works pack every bit as much mystical presence and hypnotic quality as that of any of the greatest painters of all time.
The initial experience I had of having an Old Master painting assume corporeal presence was the Corot in the National Gallery of Art (pictured above). That was the defining moment of my life as a painter. The experience was made possible because in the early 1970s the museum stayed open until 9 pm and one could visit rooms of Old Master painting for long periods of time when there was not another soul present and there was a nocturnal quality in the Museum.
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, The Goat-Herd of Genzano, 1843