Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (French, 1796 - 1875)
Two Woodcutters in the Forest, n.d.
Charcoal on beige wove paper 9 1/4 in. x 12 1/4 in. (23.5 cm x 31.12 cm)
Crocker Art Museum, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Neuhaus1984.1
The landscape painter Camille Corot was a leading member of a group of artists known as the Barbizon school who depicted the forest of Fontainebleau near Paris. Born to shopkeepers in Paris in 1796, he worked in the family business until age twenty-six, when he turned to art. He studied with the landscape painter Achille Michallon, who schooled him in the Academic tradition. After Michallon’s death, his own teacher Jean-Victor Bertin continued Corot’s training in landscape, encouraging the young artist toward precision. Corot was in Italy from 1825 to 1828, studying ancient sculpture and Renaissance painters but learning more from the Roman countryside with its hills and ruins. In subsequent years, Corot continued to visit Italy and began his struggle for acceptance at the Paris Salon. His battles with critics over the modernity and realism of his landscapes are well known.
Corot’s later, looser style appealed greatly to European and American audiences. In this drawing, Corot employs the expressive possibilities of charcoal to capture a rocky landscape in which two woodcutters complete their tasks. The jagged contours, first rubbed into the surrounding paper to create volume, are then reinforced. Both the technique and subject are strikingly modern; the humble woodcutters reflect new ideas about the dignity of labor.