Monday, December 28, 2015

Interrupted Reading (1870)

Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot: Interrupted Reading

Interrupted Reading is among the most compelling of Camille Corot’s late figure paintings. Corot almost never exhibited these studies of the human form, preferring instead to publicize the idyllic landscapes that were his specialty. To emphasize the private nature of Interrupted Reading, Corot enclosed his model within the protective environment of the artist’s studio. The mood of the painting is introspective and somewhat melancholic, the very essence of the Romantic sensibility. The muselike image of a woman reading a book was a popular one in nineteenth-century art, but Corot chose to show his model pausing, looking up from this activity. A lover of everything Italian (he spent a number of years there), the artist often furnished his models with Italianate costumes such as the one worn here. Whereas Corot’s subject matter is traditional, his technique is not. With direct and bold brushwork, he explored the human form as a construction of masses that support and balance one another. This broad handling is complemented by the artist’s obvious delight in detail—the ribbon in the model’s hair, the delicate earrings, the deep folds in the skirt. Here he combined a profound sense of formal structure with the dreamy softness and intimacy that characterize his most famous landscapes. [Art Institute of Chicago]

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