Roads and paths are recurring motifs in Corot's work, and from his youth the artist appears to have been particularly fond of lanes that ascend and descend. In contrast to the increasing number of souvenirs Corot painted in the 1860s - silvery poetic reminiscences of a particular place distilled into a picture - the present work is very much set in time and place and, if not painted in the open air, at least based on a plein air sketch made on the spot, in this case a country road in Brie. The immediacy of the observed light and tonalities is abundantly evident.
For Corot, form and tonality, the effect, came before detail. Seeing Corot and Courbet work side by side at Saintes in 1862, critic Théodore Duret wrote, 'Corot and especially Courbet aspire to render the appearance of nature without adding anything. They work at getting down with precision the things seen, but, since they see them as true artists...they grasp the characteristic aspects and ignore the details, the secondary traits.' (Duret, quoted in Roger Bonniot, Gustave Courbet en Saintonge 1862-3, 1973, p. 103.)
Indeed it was works such as the present one that prompted young painters, Berthe Morisot among them, to elicit Corot's instruction and approval. Pissaro described himself as a pupil of Corot in the Salon brochures as a measure of respect, and others did the same. Corot was adopted by the proponents of the New Painting; Émile Zola, Théodore Duret, and Edmond Duranty, the key writers on the new school, considered Corot a progenitor of Impressionism. And indeed at one point or another in the course of the 1860s, Monet, Renoir, and Sisley each experimented with some of Corot's techniques.
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