Père Corot

Andréa Fernandes

Jean Baptiste Camille Corot passed away 134 years ago this past Saturday. Claude Monet once said of his fellow French painter, "There is only one master here—Corot. We are nothing compared to him, nothing." A few facts about the painter of "Les Petits Denicheurs":

1. While Jean Baptiste Camille Corot came to be well-respected as a painter, he wasn't always very accomplished. In school, he "was not a brilliant student," never receiving any awards or even nominations for prizes. After school, he became an apprentice to a draper and "demonstrated his incompetence for business." As a delivery boy, he spent much of his time "admiring the sky and loitering at shop windows."

2. Of Italian women, Corot said, "their eyes, their shoulders, their hands, and their asses are spectacular." Despite the attractiveness of Italian women, Corot preferred "the French woman when it comes to emotion." He never committed himself to any woman, Italian or French, though, feeling that marriage and a profession as an artist were incompatible.

3. Corot eventually became an established, respected artist, regularly bringing in about 4,000 francs per painting. He remained humble despite his popularity, believing, "Men should not puff themselves up with pride, whether they are emperors adding this or that province to their empires or painter who gain a reputation."

4. Called Père Corot (or Father Corot), the artist was known for his generosity. He gave approximately £2,000 to Paris' poor in 1871. He also supported the widow of Jean-François Millet, bought a house "the ailing, destitute Honoré Daumier," and financed the upkeep of a children's day care.

5. Corot was widely copied, first by students (whose paintings Corot would sometimes sign) and then by forgers. One commenter joked, "Corot painted three thousand canvases, ten thousand of which have been sold in America." While that might be an overstatement, there are several thousand known forgeries. One collection alone contains 2,414!

A larger version of "Les Petits Denicheurs" is available here. Fans should check out the Corot collections at ARC, the NGA, the Brooklyn Museum, and Art in the Picture. Current Exhibition:Monet and the Impressionists, feat. Corot, Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Degas, and Cézanne (New Zealand: through May 17, 2009) "Feel Art Again" appears every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. You can e-mail us at feelartagain@gmail.com with details of current exhibitions, for sources or further reading, or to suggest artists.