Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Les Contrebandiers (1872)

Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot: Les Contrebandiers [The Smugglers]

Les Contrebandiers (The Smugglers) depicts two mounted riders herding a group of young horses through a verdant gorge. In the foreground, a pond reflects the stormy sky above.

Corot's lyrical landscapes were part of his self-confessed retreat from the external world. He expressed his lack of sympathy for much that was going on around him in artistic circles in a remark to Millet's biographer, Alfred Sensier, in 1857: ' This is for me a new world which I no longer recognise; I am too attached to the past...If you understand what I am saying, I want to make a new art for myself.' (quoted in Etienne Moreau-Nélaton, Histoire de Corot et ses oeuvres, Paris, 1905, p. 180).

This escapism accords perfectly with Corot's paintings of the 1860s and 1870s, be they his Salon pictures or the innumerable smaller works he also produced for an increasingly enthusiastic public. Corot was not alone in producing such ethereal visions of nature and in the 1860s there developed a considerable school of pastoral landscape painting in France, particularly in the environs of Paris, which had suffered from what some perceived to be its dehumanization on account of the pulling down of the old quartiers and construction of the grands boulevards under Baron Haussmann. [Sotheby’s]

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