Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Camille Corot’s vision revealed in figure paintings



Camille Corot’s vision revealed in figure paintings

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
People look at Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot’s Woman with a Large Toque and a Mandolin at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, on September 5. afp

Camille Corot’s vision revealed in figure paintings

WHEN Camille Corot’s figure paintings last went on display more than a century ago, they stunned Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, who paid tribute to the French painter in their groundbreaking Cubist creations.

Through December 31, the National Gallery of Art in Washington is presenting dozens of portraits of women that are some of the most intimate, rarely seen and modern works of an artist celebrated for his dreamy landscapes.

They reveal the 19th century painter as a missing link between the staid formalism of classical and romantic painting with the impressionism and modernism that followed.

The tension of works caught between these radically different approaches is palpable.

‘Experimental’

Here, Corot pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable as a finished painting in ways he never dared with his uber-popular landscapes, of which he created nearly 3,000 – not counting the many forgeries.

“It is a rarefied arena in which he can be more experimental and try out new things,” said exhibition curator Mary Morton, the head of the museum’s department of French paintings.

The show includes works loaned from some of the most prestigious public and private collections in Europe and the United States.

There are nudes – daringly devoid of classical references – almost comical riffs on myths and models, often dressed in Italian “peasant” garb and imbued with a kind of erotic melancholy particular to Corot, complete with nonchalant cleavage.

The pictures are sometimes hazy but the languid faces emerge into sharper focus out of a dark backdrop with near-abstract elements painted with quick, loose brushstrokes.

The sometimes unsettling aesthetics paved the way toward painting for the sake of painting, where a picture that deliberately reveals the artist’s hand is presented as finished without being completely resolved.

Unlike a separate show at the Musee Marmottan Monet in Paris earlier this year, this one focuses exclusively on Corot’s female subjects, apart from a lone picture representing Saint Sebastian.

A portrait that bears the mysterious title of Woman with a Pearl (circa 1868–1870) references both with its title Vermeer’s famous portrait (Girl with a Pearl Earring) and with her unsettling gaze none less than Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

Corot created a myth all of his own in an intriguing composition (Bacchante with a Panther, 1860) featuring a child mounted on a panther while a reclining nude dangles a dead bird before the feline’s mouth, the whole thing made even more enigmatic by dark lighting.

Coming full circle, Corot towards the end of his life in the late 1860s and early 1870s depicted his models in studio settings with a hand touching one of his landscapes and the other holding a mandolin, hinting at his love of music.

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Education’ a priority traffic-law penalty

    A top National Police official on June 21 neither rejected nor confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio message, which has gone viral on social media, on a waiver of fines for a number of road traffic-related offences. General Him Yan, deputy National Police chief in

  • Pursat Ford assembly plant opens

    The Kingdom’s first Ford assembly plant was inaugurated on June 16 in Pursat province amid rising demand for brand-new vehicles among Cambodians. The facility is seen as a game changer for the domestic automobile industry, which could bring a wave of investors seeking to cash

  • Siem Reap’s $18M zoo said to educate public, help wildlife

    Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium Co Ltd has invested $18 million in a zoo in Siem Reap province, which will be opened in October to educate and promote animal conservation as well as attract national and international tourists. Currently, the Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium is building the

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • $50B infrastructure plan en route

    The government’s upcoming $50 billion,10-year infrastructure master plan will provide tremendous investment opportunities for domestic and foreign entities, transport experts and economists say. Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol revealed the plan to Japanese ambassador to Cambodia Masahiro Mikami on June 15. At

  • Chinese firms unveil preliminary results on metro, monorail for capital

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and representatives from China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) and its parent company, the state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), met on June 24 for talks on results of the firms’ preliminary study on a potential metro