Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot: The Parc des Lions at Port-Marly
Camille Corot, whose art was halfway between Romanticism and Realism, preferred to paint a nature that inspired poetry and bucolic fantasy than to render it realistically as Courbet did. A pioneer of plein air painting, throughout his lifetime he attempted to capture the essence of nature, which earned him the admiration of the Impressionists, for whom he was a constant reference.
Located some twenty kilometers from Paris, Port-Marly — where Alfred Sisley later lived — is a village on the banks of the Seine, like Asnières, Argenteuil, Chatou, Louveciennes, Bougival and Saint-Germain-en-Laye, which would very soon be made famous by the Impressionist painters. The Parc des Lions at Port-Marly, one of the most beautiful compositions from his final period, is an example of the artist’s landscape style. It was executed from life in August 1872 during a ten-day stay at the Château des Lions, owned by the Rodrigues-Henriques family since 1853.
In the painting in the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Corot depicts an everyday scene in the park next to the castle featuring his host’s children, Valentine with a stick and Henri on a donkey. Two huge silver birches divide the composition into two halves and the dense undergrowth provides a protective wall, while also surrounding the clearing in the distance where what could be the outline of Saint- Germain-en-Laye can be distinguished. The composition is painted in a range of greens with a few hints of red on the boy’s smock and on the roofs in the background, while the execution, with light touches of color that make the foliage vibrate, foreshadows the first steps towards Impressionism. [Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza]