Jean-Baptiste-Camille COROT

Paris 1796 - Ville d'Avray 1875


Although Camille Corot’s drawings received relatively little critical attention in his lifetime, the artist laid great store by them, once noting that ‘Le dessin est la confidence de l’artiste’ (‘Drawing is the artist’s intimate side’) and claiming that he drew every evening. He is also known to have said that ‘To my mind the two things of most importance are to make a concentrated study of the drawing and the values.’1 Around a thousand drawings by Corot are known today, ranging from rapid working sketches to large, atmospheric landscape drawings. While many more drawings must have been lost, a large number were preserved by the Corot scholars Alfred Robaut and Etienne Moreau-Nélaton and are today in the Louvre.

As Peter Galassi has noted, ‘The range and versatility of Corot’s drawings is a sign of their function. For Corot the drawing was never an end in itself; it was part of a continuous process of experiment and revision. This was true even when a series of drawings did not lead to the implied climax of an oil study.’ Corot’s early drawings are characterized by a spare, precise linearity, restrained landscape compositions and the use of a fine pen or a sharp lead pencil. (As the artist later recalled, ‘In those days I had wonderful pencils! They never broke; they were more likely to tear the paper.’) Around 1850, however, Corot began to prefer charcoal and chalk for his drawings, creating greater tonal effects in his landscape studies, which are darker and more atmospheric.