- Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
- Marcoussis - les vaches au pâturage
- signed COROT (lower left)
- oil on canvas
Sale: Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, May 9, 1889, lot 18
Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris (acquired at the above sale)
Samuel P. Avery, New York
James J. Hill, St. Paul, Minnesota (acquired from the above, November 12, 1897, thence by descent and sold, Christie's New York, May 5, 1998, lot 7)
Acquired at the above sale
San Francisco, California Palace Legion of Honor; Toledo Museum of Art; Cleveland Museum of Art; Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, Barbizon Revisited, September 1962-April 1963, p. 87, no. 8, illustrated p. 95
Corot visited Marcoussis, a village thirty kilometers south of Paris, on a number of occasions to visit his friend and fellow artist, Ernest Dumax, and to paint the surrounding landscape. Alfred Robaut suggests that the date for the present work is between 1845 and 1850, and his 1855 Salon submission, Souvenir de Marcoussis, près Montlhéry (circa 1855, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, acquired by Napoleon III) supports that Corot would have been there at this time. It is impossible to determine if Corot’s composition was painted en plein air or if his memory of the landscape was so vivid that he was able to reconstruct this spectacular sylvan landscape back in his Paris studio.
This particular canvas reveals Corot’s strength as a colorist, with chromatic greens zig-zagging across the foreground and carrying the viewer’s gaze from one side of the expanse to the other, and back through the opening of trees to reveal the hazy, faraway vista. The blue light of early summer is reflected on the grass and pierces through the indigo-shadowed thicket of trees to illuminate patches of the forest floor. The bright sunlight casts shadows under the cows and sheep who pasture in the meadow, while a single shepherd stands near the center of the scene and serves to anchor the entire composition.
Many great nineteenth century European paintings came to America through the influential New York art agent, Samuel P. Avery (see lots 4 and 8), and in 1897 he sold the present work to James J. Hill, founder of the American Transcontinental Railroad Network and whose collection of Corots was rivalled only by Harry Osborne and Louisine Havemeyer and the artist’s biographer, Étienne Moreau-Nélaton.