Rider in the Water
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot 1796 - 1875
Despite its deliberately naturalistic appearance, this landscape painting would have been composed from a series of sketches from nature that were intended to be worked up by the artist into a finished oil painting in his studio. This broadly worked canvas is likely to be a late work by Corot and was probably unfinished: it was in Corot's studio at the time of his death and included in the studio sale, according to a stamp recorded on the reverse. The work owes much to formal elements of mid-19th century academic landscape theory: the sense of recession deriving from the meandering river and tapering land mass; the repoussoir trees that direct our attention by inclining toward the sunset and framing the hilltop fort in a delicate mesh of branches. The nominal subject is ambiguous, though: seemingly motiveless, and cast in deep shadow, the rider's role is to add piquant narrative interest to the scene. Corot 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 offer timeless, idealised interpretations of the French countryside, to which this is no exception. Here, the handling is very loose, especially in the sky above the trees, where it is indicated by creamy dashes of paint, which is consistent with his brushwork of the later 1860s and 1870s.
Rider in the Water
unframed: 60cm x 81.9cm
framed: 99.5cm x 121.5cm
Place of creation
George Beatson Blair bequest, 1941.
© Manchester Art Gallery