Ronde de Nymphs, c. 1872-73 by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (French, 1796 - 1875)
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
French, 1796 - 1875

Ronde de Nymphs

c. 1872-73
Oil on canvas
32 1/2 x 46 inches (82.55 x 116.84 centimeters)
Framed: 49 x 62 1/2 inches (124.46 x 158.75 centimeters)

Signed lower right: COROT

SOLD

Provenance:
Stumpf sale; Paris, 9 May 1874, lot 6.
with Galerie Georges Petit, Paris.
A. B. Stewart, Esq., Glasgow; Christie's, London, 9 May 1881, lot 251.
Archibald Coates, Paisley, Scotland, 1895
B. Stuart, Glasgow.
T. G. Arthur, Glasgow, 1902
with M. Knoedler & Co., London, 1904.
William A. Clark Collection, Washington, D.C.
Gifted from the above to the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Sold by the above to benefit the acquisition fund
Private Collection, USA

Exhibited:
Paris, École des Beaux-Arts, Exposition de l’Oeuvre de Corot, 1875, no. 14.
Paris, Exposition centenaire Corot, 1895, no. 42.

Literature:
A. Robaut, L'oeuvre de Corot, catalogue raisonné et illustré, Paris, 1965, vol. III, pp. 328-29, no. 2200.
R.A.M Stevenson, “Corot,” The Art Journal, (London: J. S. Virtue & Co. Ltd, 1889): p. 209.
D. Croal Thompson, The Barbizon School of Painters: Corot, Rousseau, Diaz, Millet, Daubigny, etc, (London, Chapman and Hall, Ltd.): p. 78 (ill. opposite p. 24)

The authenticity of this painting has been confirmed by Claire Lebeau.

Ronde de nymphs depicts a group of five nymphs dancing in swirling pairs, the fifth of whom dances with Cupid, or Love. Their jewel-tones dresses and lively forms stand out from a hazy, evening landscape. A tall mass of dark trees at right anchors the composition, and contrasts with the delicately colored, thinly-glazed Italianate landscape that extends to the horizon on the left. Other figures appear in these contrasting sections of the landscape; silhouetted by light at the left, a nymph runs down a slope with joyful hands clasped in the air to join her sisters while another, quieter figure appears in the shadows of the trees. In the distant center, a domed temple appears through the branches, drawing the eye back into the warm light of the crepuscular sky.

The motif of dancing nymphs was important in Corot’s oeuvre. One of the earliest and best known example is in the Musée du Louvre, the Une matinee, danse des nymphs, which was Corot’s 1850/51 Salon Entry. Upon its unveiling at the Salon, de Chennevières called it, “The most beautiful landscape of 1850” and said, “In truth, this good man, by the breadth and tranquility of his talent, his disregard of sterile methods, his intimate charm and mellow sentiment, is to our other makers of landscape what Poussin is to Allegrain or Claude to Lantara.”1 Corot returned to this motif numerous times, although each new variation was painted without direct reference to earlier versions. Corot once said, “I preserve in my heart and in my eyes the copy of all my works.” 2

It is interesting to compare the two works. The 1850 painting marks the beginning of Corot’s mature style, and is a synthesis of the Classical subject, drawn from the French tradition and learned in Corot’s years in Italy, with the softened contours and subtle light drawn from Corot’s experience of painting the softer light in northern France. In Corot’s later treatment of the subject in our Ronde des Nymphes, contrasts tend to be more accentuated than in Corot’s earlier work. The deep, cool shadows of the trees contrast with the vibrant, warm light of the open landscape. The frolicsome movement of the figures stands out against the calm, Italian landscape. The delicate, thin washes of paint in the landscape highlight the rich, painterly impasto on the figures and clouds at center. Forms are at once dissolving and yet sculptural and immediate. The archetypal Italian landscape is reconciled with a more misty light and dense atmosphere of northern France. Corot’s ability to resolve these elements is unique among his contemporaries. He is at once one of the great artistic innovators of his age and also firmly grounded in the grand tradition of Poussin and Claude Lorraine. It is the force and singularity of Corot’s vision and his re-invention of the French Tradition that made Corot the father of French landscape painting and paved the way for the birth of Impressionism.

1 Philippe de Chennevières, Lettres sur l’art français en 1850, Paris, 1851; rpt. in Gary Tinterow, ed. Corot, exhibition catalogue, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1996 (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc, 1996): p. 231.
2 David Croal Thomson, Barbizon School of Painters: Corot, Rousseau, Diaz, Millet, Daubigny, etc., (London: Chapman and Hall, 1902): p. 78.

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (French, 1796 - 1875)

Jean Baptiste Camille Corot was born in Paris on July 16, 1796. His first teacher was Achille Etna Michallon, a landscapist who studied in Rome. The time Corot spent with Michallon was brief, as Michallon died later that same year. His influence, however, was immense, for it was he who had suggested to Corot that he carefully study out-of doors. Corot afterwards studied with Jean Victor Bertin, who had also been Michallon’s teacher. In 1817, Corot’s father bought a country home in Ville d’Avray, and the countryside became a tremendous source of inspiration for the young artist. With the financial support of his family, Corot traveled to Italy in 1825; his simple, direct interpretations of what he saw caused a stir among his colleagues. Corot left Rome in 1826 and traveled throughout much of Italy, returning to France in 1828. It was then that Corot began to establish his pattern of spending the warm months painting out of doors, and the winter in his studio, preparing his large canvases for the official Salon where he exhibited regularly beginning in 1831. Corot returned to Italy in 1834, and, in 1835, passed his first warm season in Fontainebleau. Official recognition soon followed, and the French government purchased Little Shepherd from him in 1840. After one more trip to Italy in 1843, Corot spent most of his time in France painting the landscape of his native country, especially at the family property at Ville d’Avray. By the late 1840s, Corot knew Rousseau, Millet, Troyon, Diaz and Dupré, and met them often at Fontainebleau. His freshly painted canvases done in plein-air attracted a wide circle of painters, and it can be said that Corot became the father of landscape painting in France.

Selected Museum Collections:
Musée du Louvre and Musée d’Orsay, Paris; Metropolitan Museum of Art and Frick Collection, New York; National Gallery, London; National Gallery of Art, Washington DC; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; Art Institute of Chicago; New Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen; Dallas Museum of Art; Detroit Institute of Arts; National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Courtauld Institute of Art, the British Museum, and The Wallace Collection, London; Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid; Musée des Beaux-Arts, Marseilles; Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow; Neue Pinakothek, Munich; Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, VA; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Chi-Mei Museum, Taiwan; National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo; Musée des Augustins, Toulouse; Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna

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