DescriptionJean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (French, 1796-1875)
Lisière de bois, circa 1845-55
Oil on canvas
22 x 18-1/4 inches (55.9 x 46.4 cm)
Signed lower right: Corot
Son of M. Gérard, 1892;
Sale: MacLean, Paris, June 7, 1900, lot 5337;
Arnold et Tripp, Paris;
Sale: Chaine et Simonson, Paris, November 8, 1919;
Newhouse Galleries, New York;
Private collection, Texas, acquired from the above, 1971.
A. Robaut, L'Oeuvre de Corot: Catalogue raisonné et illustré, vol. II, Paris, H. Floury, 1905, no. 849, pp. 274-75.
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot most likely started this moody landscape, as was his practice, when he left Paris each spring to travel at a feverish pace around the rural countryside, painting "souvenirs" of the local landscape. While many of his scenes record specific sites, this particular view has not been identified, and was probably finished back in his studio.
In this composition, Corot devoted more than three-quarters of the picture surface to the dense forest, leaving on the left a slice of restless sky, a glimpse of a town view, and a stolid figure standing in a clear patch of ground beside a pile of twigs he is gently poking into order with a stick. Collected on the floor of the forest, these branches will likely become a cache of kindling the man will bind together into a bundle and carry home to his hearth.
True to form, Corot painted the sky last, bringing it down over the roofs of the houses in the left distance. The hesitant gray-blue tonality of the sky is particularly striking, compared to the restrained use of color in the foreground and into the horizon. It is hard to decipher the line between forest and town, perhaps indicating the two have become intertwined. Similar to his masterpiece, Bathing nymphs and child (The Art Institute of Chicago), from the same time period, the large mass of deep, dark forest at the center of Lisière de bois seems to indicate the forest is taking over. It is thought that Corot also added tree trunks at a late stage-their subtle, highlighted forms literally serving to ground the scene.
Similar to the iconic The four times of day series (c. 1858) at the National Gallery in London, Lisière de bois contains a single flash of bright red in the cap of the peasant, which became Corot's trademark. Indeed, as he noted: "In a painting there is always one bright spot: but it must be unique. You can place it anywhere you want to: in the clouds, in the reflection of the water, in a bonnet; but there can only be a single tone of this value in a painting" (E. Moreau-Nelaton, Histoire de Corot et de ses oeuvres, Paris, 1905, p. 286).
We would like to thank Martin Dieterle and Claire Lebeau for kindly confirming the authenticity of this lot, which is accompanied by their letter of authenticity dated April 12, 2019.
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Estimate: $150,000 - $250,000.
Framed Dimensions 31.5 X 27.75 Inches
Buyer's Premium per Lot:
25% on the first $300,000 (minimum $49), plus 20% of any amount between $300,000 and $3,000,000, plus 12.5% of any amount over $3,000,000 per lot.