Friday, January 8, 2016

Diana Bathing (1869-70)

Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot: Diana Bathing (The Fountain)

According to Alfred Robaut, Corot painted this work between 1869 and 1870 in the company of Achille Oudinot (1820-1891).

Naturally, Corot is better known as a landscape painter, often associated - a little too quickly - with the Barbizon School, than as a painter of nudes. This aspect of his art was probably one of the revelations of the retrospective exhibition of 1996 held in Paris, Ottawa and New York, even though he only painted around thirty nudes, only of women, most of which are kept in public collections.

Thanks to Robaut we know that Emma Dobigny, one of Corot's favourite models, posed for this Diana Bathing. She was also known for doing some modelling for Puvis de Chavanne and Degas. Corot depicted her in many of his works, the most famous being Lady in Blue (Paris, Musée du Louvre) and appreciated in particular her vitality, while other artists criticized the fact that she could not keep still.

The rather un-anatomical style of Corot's nudes puzzled many of his colleagues, including Ingres. On the other hand, Hippolyte Flandrin found that Corot expressed something he did not find in his contemporaries. Fortunately, Corot explained his views on this subject, something he did rarely, referring to The Toilette, Landscape with Figure, undoubtedly one of his most beautiful compositions of this type: "You can see the effort I put into hiding the joints between the collarbones and the sternum, or into blending the contours of the ribs, just visible at the base of the breasts; I try to proceed differently from what is usual, that is, by showing first and foremost that I know what I am doing. Since this is not a lesson in anatomy, I have to blend, like nature does, the cover of the frame which makes up and supports the body, in order to render only what I feel in front of this flesh, through which one can see the blood running underneath, while at the same time it reflects the light of the sky. In one word, I have to put into painting those breasts the naivety I would put into painting a milk tin." These words explain beautifully, without the need for further commentary, how Corot manages to introduce emotion and poetry into such an apparently banal painting. [Museo Thyssen]

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