Sunset: Figures under Trees

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, 1796 - 1875

Sunset: Figures under Trees

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot 1796 - 1875


This elegant, Italianate evening scene by Corot probably dates from the middle of his career, around 1845. A small stream in the foreground catches the last brightness in the sky, while the colours have already faded on the gently sloping hill in the background. The valley floor is still well lit and sunlight glances through the leaves of a tall tree on the right, under which sits a single figure in bright red. A building in classical style can be glimpsed through the trees, adding a note of grandeur and alluding to this as a civilised landscape. The group of figures sitting in the centre of the painting is cast in deep shadow. Although quite loosely painted, the landscape is deliberately arranged: the trees frame the distant view, while the sunset and reclining figures suggest the landscapes of Claude. Corot's usual working method was to make charcoal or oil sketches in the open air, which he would work up in his studio into finished paintings suitable for exhibiting. He studied first with Achille-Etna Michallon (1796-1822) and, after Michallon's tragically early death, with Jean-Victor Bertin (1767-1842). Both had been pupils of the great champion of classical ideals in landscape painting, Pierre-Henri Valenciennes (1750-1819), and the art theory absorbed from all three underpinned Corot's entire life's work. He painted in a broad arc around Paris during the 1850s and 1860s, but he returned often to sketches taken in Italy and worked up many paintings from memory on Italianate themes. Most of his landscapes are timeless, idealised interpretations of the French countryside, although he began to produce more naturalistic views in the 1860s and 1870s.

Object Name

Sunset: Figures under Trees

Date Created



unframed: 33.8cm x 43.8cm
framed: 44.7cm x 60.1cm

accession number


Place of creation





oil paint


© Manchester Art Gallery

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